Parking just got easier for some San Francisco drivers, as a new program combines high tech data with flexible parking pricing to take the stress out of taking the car downtown. The SFPark program’s motto, “Circle Less. Live more”, refers to the estimate that one-third of city driving is caused by drivers circling in search of parking. This means a prodigious amount of stress, wasted gas and excess emissions in the atmosphere.
The new system includes:
- A network of sensors embedded in parking spaces that records and transmits whether a parking spot is free or taken.
- Meters that accept debit and credit cards.
- Live data feeds that tell drivers number and location of free spots; the info is transmitted via smart phone apps as well as on the sfPark’s website and electronic displays.
On the program’s website, drivers preparing to go downtown can see exactly how many spaces are available on each block and at what rate, with the rate changing depending on time of day.
SFPark is in a federally-funded pilot phase through mid 2012, affecting 5,500 of San Francisco’s 26,000 metered spaces and 12,250 spaces in 14 of 20 City-owned parking garages.
Demand-Based Parking Rates
Another feature of the program is demand-based pricing. The cost of parking will be automatically adjusted depending on demand, with rates adjusted block by block with a goal of having at least one spot available at any time on a given block. Officials anticipate the price of parking in a space could fluctuate from 25 cents to $6.00 per hour. Rates for special events, such as popular sports matches, may reach as high as $18 in the future. The sfPark website states that rates will be changed up or down no more than once a month and by no more than 50 cents an hour.
Will Easier Parking Really Mean Less Pollution?
Stated goals of the program include making parking easier, increasing traffic to local businesses and cutting down on unsafe double parking; the effect of the program on parking revenues to the City is not yet proved. Another supposed benefit of the program is that less circling means less gas burning, which means cleaner air. While this sounds good in theory, it is just possible that taking the stress out of parking may mean more people drive into and around the city, spewing more carbon into the air. There are other measures that could result in fewer cars in busy downtown areas, such as the congestion fees as implemented in London and Singapore, which charge a fee for any vehicle entering the downtown area at busy times of day. A congestion fee has been under consideration for San Francisco for some time but there is strong resistance from some in the business community and the proposed congestion fee is still awaiting local and state legislative approval.
Photo: Ad for SFPark program from sfpark.org