The NSS hits the streets #1: Price Tag the City

How many different ways can we value our city streets? There are things that immediately jump to mind, like the investment in a roadway, or the revenue the city receives from parking meters. And then there are more intangible values, like what a street tree contributes to the cleanliness of the air and water in the city, or what a bench gives to every individual who rests there.

#Streetvalues - If This Parking Lane was a Sidewalk, or a Traffic Lane

If a parking lane were converted into a sidewalk, it could accommodate 7,200 people per hour. As a lane for private traffic, it could move up to 1,600 people per hour.

If a parking lane were converted into a sidewalk, it could accommodate 7,200 people per hour. As a lane for private traffic, it could move up to 1,600 people per hour.

  1. NACTO calculates that a typical sidewalk can accommodate 9,000 people per hour or 60 people per meter per minute, allowing 1.5 m2 (16.15 ft2) per pedestrian and a 75 meters (246 feet) per minute walking speed. (1)

  2. Assuming a SF parking space is around 10 feet (3 meters) wide, a parking space repurposed as sidewalk could potentially move 120 people per minute or 7,200 per hour through parking-lane-as-sidewalk.

  3. An equivalent street lane width of 10 ft exclusively occupied by private motor vehicles is estimated at 600-1,600 persons per hour, assuming 600-800 vehicles per hour and 1-2 passengers per vehicle (2). Taking the upper bound for vehicles, 1,600 people/hour can move through parking-lane-as-dedicated-private-traffic-lane.


  1. http://nacto.org/publication/transit-street-design-guide/introduction/why/designing-move-people/ 

  2. http://nacto.org/publication/transit-street-design-guide/introduction/why/designing-move-people/

#Streetvalues - What is Biking Worth to local business?

A bike rack is worth $1935 per month to local businesses.

A bike rack is worth $1935 per month to local businesses.

  1. A Portland study found that people who traveled to a shopping area by bike spent 24% more per month than those who traveled by car. Similar trends were found for Toronto and three cities in New Zealand. (1)

    1. Auto spending per month: $61.03

    2. Bike spending per month: $75.66

  2. The SFMTA can install up to 12 bikes in a parking space, as a bike corral.

  3. The SCFTA studied parking occupancy rates in commercial districts at midday across four neighborhoods, finding an average of 85.5% occupancy (2). Turnover across the same neighborhoods averaged 0.8 vehicles per hour per spot.

  4. Applying the same turnover rates to a car parking space as to a bike corral in the same location and an 8 hour active retail window each day, we can estimate unique bike and auto visitors as:

    1. Auto: 128

    2. Bicycle: 1,536

  5. Using Portland figures for different retail expenditure levels for people who bike versus drive over month, the value of dedicating a parking space to bike racks = 1,536 * 75.66 = $116,213. This, however, assumes that all 1,536 turnovers of the bike parking spot are completely new and spend their entire monthly estimate in one trip - which is likely unreasonable.

  6. We assume instead that car and rack usage is by repeat visitor, each of whom makes 5 trips a month.

  7. This drops unique visitors for bike racks to 307 and 25 for the parking spot.

  8. The total value for bike rack usage to local retail is therefore 307 * 75.66 over a month = $23,227 and for the parking space is $1,525.

  9. Divided by the number of bike racks, each bike rack is now worth $1,935 per month to local retail.


Other facts of note:

  1. When San Francisco revamped Valencia St and installed bike lanes and wider sidewalks, 66% of merchants saw increased sales. (3)

  2. A 2008 study found that a parking space delivers 19 cents in retail revenue per hour per square foot of on-street car parking. Bike parking delivers 69 cents per square foot. (4)

  3. A 2013 survey of San Francisco’s Polk St found that only 15% of people arrived by car.

  4. One estimate suggests that a bike rack in San Francisco costs the SFMTA around $540 to install (5). After that time, the rack is effectively zero maintenance (or at least no clear figures exist for maintenance costs). Compared with parking maintenance, the 5 year cost of a bike rack relative to a parking space:

    1. On-street metered: $3,645, or nearly 7 times greater.

    2. On-street unmetered: $912, or nearly 1.6 times greater.



  1.  Kelly J. Clifton, Sara Morrissey, and Chloe Ritter, “Business Cycles: Catering to the Bicycling Market,” TR News 280, 2012: 26-32. http://bit.ly/16WKfe3; T Fleming, S Turner, and L Tarjomi, “Reallocation of road space,” NZ Transport Agency research report 530,2013. http://bit.ly/167iGlQ; Clean Air Partnership, “Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business: A Study of Bloor Street in Toronto’s Annex Neighbourhood,” 2009. http://bit.ly/18hToAY. Cited in http://www.sfbike.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Protected_Bike_Lanes_Mean_Business.pdf

  2. http://www.sfcta.org/sites/default/files/content/Planning/ParkingManagementStudy/pdfs/parking_study_final.pdf

  3. Emily Drennen, “Economic Effects of Traffic Calming on Urban Small Businesses,” San Francisco State University, 2003. http://bit.ly/19NYG6m

  4.  Allison Lee, “What is the Economic Contribution of Cyclists Compared to Car Drivers in Inner Suburban Melbourne’s Shopping Strips?” Master’s Thesis, University of Melbourne, 2008. http://bit.ly/1aD65Gx

  5. http://sf.streetsblog.org/2011/08/16/why-the-sfmta-doesnt-install-short-term-residential-bike-parking/

#Streetvalues - If We Grew Vegetables Instead of Cars

If we grew vegetables in parking spaces instead of cars, we could grow 216 heads of broccoli every year.

If we grew vegetables in parking spaces instead of cars, we could grow 216 heads of broccoli every year.

Based on a Rutgers study (1) for mixed stand, small-scale agriculture, a general yield expectation is 0.5 lb per square foot, or 0.5*144 = 72 lb of annual vegetables yield for a parking space sized plot. Selected vegetable yields (upper bound):

  1. Broccoli: 0.75 lb/square foot. At around ½lb for a single head (2), that’s 216 heads.

  2. Tomatoes: 2 lb/square foot. At 5 oz a tomato (3), that’s 921 tomatoes.

  3. Asparagus: 0.1 lb/square foot

  4. Beets: 1.2 lb/square foot. At 0.44 lb/beet (4), that’s 393 beets.

  5. Lettuce: 0.4lb/square foot

  6. Sweet potatoes: 0.33 lb/square foot

  7. Spinach: 0.36 lb/square foot


  1. https://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/urbanfringe/pdfs/urbanfringe-v07n01.pdf

  2. https://www.thespruce.com/broccoli-equivalents-measures-and-substitutions-1807461

  3. https://www.reference.com/food/much-average-tomato-weigh-5eca71f01bc149a2#

  4. http://www.cooksinfo.com/beet





#Streetvalues - What is The Value of a Street Tree?

A single public tree provides an annual benefit of  $158.80

A single public tree provides an annual benefit of $158.80

  1. According to the census of the SF Urban Forest Plan (Planning Department, City of San Francisco), a single public tree provides an annual benefit of $158.80 (1). This includes energy savings, air quality improvements, stormwater interception, atmospheric CO2 reduction and aesthetic contributions.

    1. Reducing electric and CNG use by shading: $10.36/tree.

    2. Sequestered atmospheric CO2: $0.99/tree.

    3. Absorption and deposition of chemical pollutants: $2.1/tree

    4. Stormwater intercepted: $80.46/tree

    5. Aesthetic/socioeconomic: $67.52/tree.

  2. Total per capita benefits of the SF tree population are $4.86 per capita, with expenditures to maintain the tree population at $1.11 per capita. This translates into a 4-fold return on investment on the city’s investment in street trees.

  3. Current costs of maintaining a single street tree are estimated at $160-175 per year (2). This is almost identical to the estimated cost of maintaining an on-street spot in San Francisco (~$167/space/year), but you don’t get a tree out of it.

  4. In 2012-2013, the City recouped $54.6 million in parking meter revenues (3). At a total cost of ownership of $729/space/year, the city has only a 2.7 x ROI on every parking space. In other words, a street tree has a 50% higher ROI to the city than a parking space.


  1. http://default.sfplanning.org/plans-and-programs/planning-for-the-city/urban-forest-plan/UrbanForestPlan_StreetTreeCensus_FullReport_apr2013.pdf

  2. http://www.sf-planning.org/ftp/files/plans-and-programs/planning-for-the-city/urban-forest-plan/121029FINAL_REPORT_SF_Urban_Forest_Financing_Report.pdf

  3. https://sfbay.ca/2014/11/18/sfmta-falls-short-with-parking-meter-revenue/

#Streetvalues - The Hidden Value of One Square Foot

One square foot of Parking Space contributes $13 per year to the city. One square foot of commercial building contributes $50 per year.

One square foot of Parking Space contributes $13 per year to the city. One square foot of commercial building contributes $50 per year.

What is the revenue to the City of San Francisco from a square foot of parking space?

  1. As of 2014, there were 275,000 parking spaces in San Francisco. (1)

  2. Only 26,750 were on-street and metered. (1)

  3. The City of San Francisco collected $54.6 million from parking meters in 2012-2013. (2)

  4. The standard dimension for off-street parking in San Francisco is 144 square feet. (3)

  5. The average annual revenue per parking space is $54.6M / 26,750 places = $1985.45.

  6. The average annual revenue per square foot of parking space is $1985.45 / 144 square feet = $13.78/square foot.


What is the revenue to the City of San Francisco from a square foot of retail space?

  1. The City of San Francisco sourced $572,385,000 from business taxes in its FY 2014-2015 annual budget.

  2. Over the same period, the City sourced $136,100,000 from sales taxes.

  3. Total revenues sourced from commercial activity in 2014-2015 (excluding some more minor taxes), were: $572,385,000 + $136,100,000 = $708,485,000.

  4. The total land area of retail/entertainment land use in San Francisco is 4,621,410 square feet. (4)

  5. The total land area of office land use in San Francisco is 9,428,258 square feet. (5)

  6. The total floor area of commercial (office, retail, entertainment) land use in San Francisco is 4,621,410 + 9,428,258 = 14,049,668 square feet.

  7. The total revenue per square foot of commercial land area in San Francisco is $708,485,000 / 14,049,668 square feet = $50.42/square foot.


  1. SF Park census:

  2. SF Controller’s report: http://sfcontroller.org/sites/default/files/FileCenter/Documents/5985-SFMTA%20Parking%20Meter%20Revenue%20Audit%20Report-FINAL.pdf

  3. SF Planning Code: http://planning.sanfranciscocode.org/1.5/154/

  4. GET https://data.sfgov.org/resource/a2rp-pwkh.csv?LANDUSE=RETAIL/ENT

  5. GET https://data.sfgov.org/resource/a2rp-pwkh.csv?LANDUSE=MIPS