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Taken with Transportation Podcast: Paint, Paper, Metal and Machines

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

A group of men in safety vests on a roadMembers of the SFMTA Paint Shop Thermoplastic Team Six restripe Lake Merced Boulevard to create a new bike lane.

Street signs, street paint and parking meters keep us moving safely and efficiently around San Francisco. We may take them for granted because we are so used to seeing them, but they are a vital part of our transportation management infrastructure. 

In “Paint, Paper, Metal and Machines,” the latest episode of our podcast Taken with Transportation, we take a tour of the SFMTA’s Street Operations shops. These shops are responsible for street and curb painting, parking meter management and street sign production and installation in San Francisco. We depend on the work they do, whether we get around the city by walking, driving, cycling or scooting. 

“Drivers need to know where they need to be,” Traffic Paint Shop Supervisor Brian McBride tells Taken with Transportation Host Melissa Culross. “The street (markings) need to be clear enough so that people know where they need to be to make a turn or just drive safely.” 

Throughout the episode we learn how street signs are made, what materials are used to “paint” San Francisco’s roads and how our Temporary Sign program is managed. 

Two street signs on a tableTwo freshly created street signs at the Traffic Sign Shop.

Meter Shop Manager Tony Massetti describes the maintenance and replacement of parking meters. He also shows us a particularly fascinating part of his shop. It’s an area his team calls “the museum” that is home to out-of-service meters, some of which are about 60 years old.  

“You get a real glimpse of the history of the parking meters that have been on the streets in San Francisco,” Massetti says. “ We’ve held on to a wide variety of meters: the old pay stations, single space meters, all sorts of styles.” 

A row of old parking metersParking meters from eras gone by serve as a visual history of San Francisco street management.

You can find “Paint, Paper, Metal and Machines” and all the episodes of Taken with Transportation on our podcast page (SFMTA.com/Podcast) and on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.