Improving Parking Access in San Francisco

Project Overview

man driving a car with a disabled parking placard hanging from rear-view mirror

On a daily basis, people with disabilities have trouble finding parking in San Francisco, making it more difficult to access their destinations. Current disabled parking placard and blue zone policies fail to increase access for people with disabilities, and reduce parking availability for all drivers. The City’s Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group comprised mostly of people with disabilities, worked for six months to develop a package of recommendations to increase access and reduce disabled parking placard misuse. This package of state and local changes includes proven solutions used in other jurisdictions. See the video here: http://youtu.be/FOW_U1li0AU

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Project Details

On a daily basis, people with disabilities have trouble finding parking in San Francisco, making it more difficult to access their destinations. Current disabled parking placard and blue zone policies are failing to increase access for people with disabilities, and reduce parking availability for all drivers. The City’s Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee worked together to find a better solution.

See the video

Project Description

In October 2012, the SFMTA worked with the Mayor’s Office on Disability to gather 16 stakeholders who would tackle the challenge of making parking more accessible. The majority of the Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee members were disability rights advocates, joined by others representing business, regional transportation, and medical voices. For six months, they worked to identify problems, establish goals, review research, analyze solutions, and create an integrated set of recommendations.

The Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee identified an interconnected program of policy recommendations to increase access to street parking and reduce disabled parking placard misuse. After researching best practices from cities across the country, analyzing San Francisco’s needs, and weighing many options, the Committee came to a broad consensus on the following interdependent state (CA) and local (SF) policy changes to achieve these goals.

1. Increase blue zones

To reserve more parking spaces for people with disabilities, 4% of metered parking spaces should be blue zones. This 70% increase would require the SFMTA to install at least 470 new zones. The Mayor’s Office on Disability should reevaluate San Francisco’s blue zone placement guidelines to enable zones in more locations. (SF)

2. Improve enforcement of placard misuse

The SFMTA should develop disabled parking placard enforcement improvements. This could include increasing the number of parking control officers that enforce placards, increasing stings, and other options. (SF) The DMV should make placard holder photos available to parking control officers. (CA)

3. Increase oversight of placard approvals

The DMV should upgrade its database to include information about the medical providers who certify placards, and should take steps to ensure that the providers are legitimate. The existing DMV placard application eligibility criteria should be clarified to ensure that placards are issued to people with a functional need for them. (CA)

4. Allow communities to remove the meter payment exemption

Based on experiences in other cities, requiring everyone to pay at the meter is the most effective way to reduce placard misuse and open up parking spaces. In Philadelphia, downtown parking availability increased by over 500% when placard holders started paying at the meter. The Committee recommends that this policy should only be allowed as an option in jurisdictions that offer accessible payment options. (CA)

5. Direct revenue to accessibility improvements

The SFMTA should work with the disability community to channel funds from metered blue zones into accessibility improvements that would enhance mobility for people with disabilities. (SF)

6. Allow communities to establish reasonable time limits

In order to help open up parking spaces, placard holders should have four-hour time limits at regular and blue meters, unless the posted time limit is longer. Placard holders should be able stay up to 30 minutes at green short-term loading zones, not including time spent getting in and out of the vehicle. Paid for by qualifying merchants, green zones are intended to support local business and reduce double-parking. At the state level, communites would have the option of establishing time limits for placard holders, but no shorter than four hours at general spaces and no shorter than 30 minutes in green zones. (CA)

In its November 19 resolution of support for the above six recommendations, the SFMTA Board of Directors directed staff to develop a discount program for low income people with disabled parking placards, should state law changes move forward allowing communities to remove the meter payment exemption. This additional requirement is in direct response to public feedback that low income people with disabilities who travel by private vehicle may be negatively impacted by the shift from free parking to meter payment.

NEXT STEPS

The Mayor’s Office on Disability, the SFMTA, and members of the Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee are conducting community and policymaker outreach regarding the recommendations. Outreach began in May 2013 and continues. For a full list of outreach presentations, see the committee report.
 
On November 19, the SFMTA Board of Directors approved a resolution supporting the recommendations. The SFMTA has taken steps towards implementing the recommendations that are under local control, including increasing the number of parking control officers serving on the Disabled Placard Detail and identifying potential locations for new blue zones. The SFMTA will hold public hearings prior to implementing specific new blue zones.
 
Many of the recommendations will require amendments to state law before new local policies can be implemented. At the earliest, the state law changes could be introduced in 2014 and go into effect in 2015. As envisioned, the state laws would not automatically change local rules regarding meter payment or time limits for placard holders, so there would be a new round of outreach before putting these local policies into place.

Further information (PDFs)

MAILING LIST

To join the mailing list or submit feedback, please call 415.701.5380 or write to parkingaccess@SFMTA.com.

Accessible Parking Policy Committee Members

Co-chairs
  • Carla Johnson, Interim Director, Mayor’s Office on Disability*
  • Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation, SFMTA
Members
  • Jessie Lorenz, Independent Living Resource Center, San Francisco*
  • Bob Planthold*
  • Stu Smith, Paratransit Coordinating Council (PCC)*
  • Roland Wong, SFMTA Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC)*
  • Ann Flemer, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)*
  • Andrew Conway, DMV
  • Pete Curran, San Francisco Medical Society
  • Dorene Giacopini, MTC Commissioner
  • Vera Haile, San Francisco Commission on Aging
  • Henry Karnilowicz, San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations
  • Bonnie Lewkowicz, Access Northern California
  • Cristina Rubke, Member, Board of Directors, SFMTA
  • Jeff Spicker, Building Owners and Managers Association
  • Dee Dee Workman, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

    *Also a member of the steering committee

Staff

Staff from the Mayor’s office; San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Office of the City Attorney; and SFMTA Accessible Services, Sustainable Streets, Enforcement, Finance and IT, SFpark, and Government Relations attended meetings as resources.

Facilitators

Richard Weiner and Bonnie Nelson, Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates