Smart Parking Meters Reduce Parking Congestion in San Francisco

The June 3 issue of NACo County News includes an article on the use of “smart” parking meters to reduce parking congestion in urban and downtown areas and examines the program’s success in the San Francisco area.  Smart meters monitor parking demand and adjust their rates based on location, date, and time.

The City and County of San Francisco’s SFpark uses smart parking meters that — like congestion pricing on toll roads — change their prices according to location, time of day and day of the week with the goal of keeping nearly 15 percent of spaces vacant on any given block. Funding for the project comes primarily from a $19.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Program. The system can be accessed via a smartphone app.  …

The system operates under the principle of demand-responsive pricing. The parking rate in a given metropolitan zone is adjusted up or down depending on the demand for spaces. Full blocks go up in price while emptier blocks see rates go down. Rates are adjusted once a month. As of April 2013, prices range from 25 cents to $6 per hour during normal hours with an $18-per-hour cap for special events such as baseball games or street fairs.

The article also notes that the program has succeeded in reducing parking congestion and raised $4.4 million in additional meter revenue in FY 2012.  However, the additional revenue was offset by a $5.5 million reduction in parking citations, so the program is not a revenue generator.

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