No more free Sunday parking for San Francisco

February 14, 2013

A 65-year old tradition came to an end this month when San Francisco announced that parking will no longer be free on Sundays and public holidays. As of February 2 2013, meters began charging drivers from Sunday at noon until 6pm. However, this initiative is not remarkable; it follows similar regulations enforced in Los Angeles, Portland, and Chicago.

Parking in San Francisco

San Francisco hopes to increase parking spaces on Sundays with new initiative (photo by epugachev used under a Creative Commons license).

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) argued that the change will not only encourage turnover by lessening traffic that comes from drivers constantly trying to find open spots, but also draw more visitors to the city with the hope that there will be more available parking spaces.

As expected, Bay Area residents have mixed feelings about the new regulation. Many believe that Sunday churchgoers have been wrongly targeted. Michael Pappas, Executive Director of the Interfaith Council, expressed concern that the new regulation could negatively affect attendance at Sunday services as it would make going to worship more expensive. “Maybe having to pay for meters on Sunday is going to impact either their decision to come back or what they are going to give back to the faith communities,” he said.

Primarily, the change was intended to help businesses. Since the city installed its first meter at Bush and Polk Street in 1947, San Francisco has had free parking on Sundays. However, back then, few businesses stayed open on Sundays.

Pay Parking Sign

Parking on Sundays is no longer free in San Francisco; even churchgoers must pay to park (via

“Well, in the 1940s, a policy was put in place to allow for free parking on Sundays because most businesses were closed. Nowadays, about 70 percent of businesses are open so it makes sense to have some sort of parking management in place,” said Paul Rose with SFMTA.

San Francisco doesn’t want its popular and much visited centers to turn into a parking lot on Sundays. This new policy will encourage drivers to move their cars and, in turn, free up spots throughout the day. The change could also discourage some people from driving on Sundays and may even inspire them to take mass transit instead.

Except Sundays and Public Holidays Parking Sign

New parking regulations mean that Sundays and Public Holidays are no longer exempt from everyday parking rules (via

While creating a greener, less congested city is certainly a reason for this new initiative, paid Sunday parking will also bring the SMFTA about $2 million per year in revenue. While San Francisco’s parking meters already make about $47 million per year, an extra $2 million per year will not significantly impact their income.

Drivers can now prepay for meters for up to four hours at a time. But in a gesture to quell disgruntled San Francisco churchgoers, parking will remain free on Sunday mornings, up until noon. The SMFTA also hoped that this provision would appease religious leaders who were worried about congregations not coming at all or leaving service in a rush to avoid a ticket.

For more information please visit the Sunday Parking Meters FAQ page on the SFMTA website.

-N. Segal

Category: Regulations

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