So, there I was driving in the Marina at about 4:30 pm on a Friday looking for a parking space. I didn't have my phone so I couldn't rely on VoicePark. I had to travel back in time and rely on my primitive late 20th century pre-app-man parking instincts. Driving along Chestnut Street…nothing…nothing…a lady opening her trunk…nope, not leaving…nothing…there's one, damn, no, she's taking it…ah ha, there's one! Damn, a yellow meter, it's only 4:30, yellow meters are loading zones until 6 pm and I don't want to deal with getting towed. But, if I keep looking, I'm going to be late.
There are 3 courses of action one might see as options in this situation:
1) Consider if this date/meeting is potentially worth $450, park at the yellow meter if it is, and spin the AutoReturn roulette wheel
2) Park at the yellow meter, take a can of matte gray spray paint, and perform some parking meter alchemy
3) Park at the yellow meter, put in your money, and go about your business worry free, with a smirk, knowing that you are in on a little secret that is hidden in plain sight.
You'll take option 3? Good choice. The assumption that most people make is that a yellow meter is in effect until 6 pm. And what did your driving instructor always tell you about assuming?
The little secret is that many yellow meters, like the ones on Chestnut Street, are only in effect until 1 pm…and some in other parts of the City only until 11 am.
"But how can you tell from inside your car whether it is a 1 pm or 6 pm yellow meter?" Excellent question. The multi-colored bands around the meter are intimidating to many people, and who has the time to decipher them? "I'll just park elsewhere," is the common response. And, when you are out and about, it's not often a good time to bend over 3 feet and really take a closer look at this information, as you are on your way to do something more interesting. I've included a close-up pic for you to study, so you can then know what you are looking for next time you are driving.
Let's take it from the top:
1) No Stopping. Tow-Truck. Okay, got it.
2) Next line. Except Commercial Vehicle Loading. 8 am-1 pm. 30 Minutes. Only commercial trucks can park here for thirty minutes during these times.
3) The third band (in white): General Metered Parking. 1 pm-6 pm Monday-Friday. 8 am-6 pm Saturday. Anybody can park here during these times.
The real trick I think is to get at the proper angle to read it. You'll notice that SFMTA has posted these informational stickers on the pole at an angle that does not face the street at a 90 degree angle, nor at a 45 degree angle, but at an angle that their engineers determined made it the absolute most impossible to read from a car.
But, you don't have to read the whole thing at first. All you are looking for initially is the end time of the commercial zone. That's it. If you can see that last number in the middle row of the yellow band, you know most all of what you need to know. So, study the picture, get out there, practice this trick and get on with your business. Worry free.
For more secrets hidden in plain sight, click here.