All Meters Now SFpark-Ready — More Demand-Based Parking Pricing to Come

Image: KPIX

The SFMTA recently upgraded all of SF’s 29,000 parking meters to “smart meters” that are enabled for demand-based price changes throughout the day, a la SFpark. Now, the SFMTA plans to expand its smart pricing program that has curbed car traffic to more existing meters.

“SFpark showed that demand-based pricing can improve parking availability without increasing double parking, congestion, or parking citations,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. “Our next challenge is to figure out the right mix of pricing and real-time information to make SFpark work in every neighborhood in the city. We’ll be working with stakeholders to find a win-win that creates less frustration, smarter travel choices, and fewer citations for every neighborhood.”

Under SFpark, the SFMTA has used “demand-responsive” pricing at about a quarter of the city’s meters since 2011. During a two-year pilot phase, the federally-funded program proved that by adjusting prices to demand, enough parking spaces could be made available to eliminate the need to circle for a spot.

Once the SFpark pilot phase ended, the in-ground sensors used to measure parking occupancy were shut down. But the SFMTA can still measure occupancy using the smart meters, albeit with slightly less accuracy, since they transmit payment data.

By all measures, SFpark successfully proved Professor Donald Shoup’s theory. At the meters included in the program, cruising for a spot was cut was cut by 30 percent, and meter-related parking tickets cut by 23 percent, according to the SFMTA’s report. Average on-street meter rates dropped by 4 percent, and double parking dropped 22 percent (compared to 5 percent in control areas).

Like the pre-existing SFpark meters, all of SF’s meters now accept credit cards and have digital displays. Those features, along with relaxed time limits, are aimed at easing the experience of paying for parking and reducing parking tickets. The SFMTA also recently placed stickers with simple explanations of tow-away hours on every applicable parking meter.

But the SFMTA has met with fierce political resistance over installing meters for demand-based pricing at spots that were formerly free. In 2013, the Board of Supervisors hamstrung the SFMTA’s ability to expand meters for five years. The agency also abandoned plans to expand SFpark into the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, and watered down plans in the northeast Mission.

Residents who fought new meters initially said they didn’t trust SFpark’s dynamic pricing, fearing it would let the SFMTA raise meter rates (though the SFMTA doesn’t make money when rates are higher than demand). But even after the SFMTA removed the dynamic pricing feature from its proposed new meters, vocal neighbors continued to protest against paying for parking — period.

Expanding SFpark to existing meters shouldn’t be controversial. And as voters’ rejection of Proposition L showed, the majority of San Franciscans are not interested in enshrining free parking (or poorly-assessed meter rates, for that matter).

But when it comes to paying for parking, it apparently doesn’t take much set off the anti-meter crowd. The supervisors and the mayor, however, don’t have to let them dictate whether SF gets to manage parking with a cutting-edge program looked to by cities around the world.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

SFpark Releases Pilot Report, Considers Giving Revenue to Local Streets

|
SFpark has released new comprehensive stats collected during its two-year pilot program phase, documenting the numerous benefits that it garnered by pricing parking according to demand. SFpark is being watched closely by cities around the world, since it’s the first program to thoroughly test demand-based parking pricing principles first professed by UCLA’s Donald Shoup. But the […]

SFMTA Launches SFPark to Much Fanfare and Political Support

|
San Francisco launched the world’s most innovative parking pilot today, a federally-funded trial that promises to revolutionize the way cities manage and price metered curb parking. SFPark will make it easier for motorists to find spaces in busy commercial districts, while reducing congestion, speeding Muni, and improving air quality and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. […]

San Francisco to Start Smart Parking Management Trial Soon

|
The central principle of San Francisco’s cutting-edge parking management program, SFPark, comes right from Econ 101. If there are more people looking for parking than there are parking spaces (i.e. demand is greater than supply) adjust the price of parking until there is enough turnover on a given street, or roughly one free parking space […]

Supes Farrell and Cohen Have Yet to Grasp Why Free Parking Hurts SF

|
Mark Farrell and Malia Cohen emerged as the most vocal proponents of free car parking on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at a hearing on parking meters last week. Farrell called the hearing in February based on an admittedly “unfounded” suspicion that the SF Municipal Transportation Agency was planning to install parking meters in District 2, which […]