Case Study: San Francisco’s New Parking Strategy
Case Study: SFpark, San Francisco’s New Parking Strategy
SFpark is a new project that combines innovative technologies and strategies to redistribute the demand for parking to make parking easier, reduce congestion (by reducing circling and double parking), improve bus speed and reliability, and transfer lessons learned to other cities.
The Right Price
SFpark hinges on the documented finding that if parking is cheap, drivers are less willing to park in an off-street, priced lot or garage, and more willing to circle for free or cheap on-street parking. On-street parking is often at (or even over) capacity on downtown streets, whereas multiple spaces are available a block or two outside of downtown. A key component of the program is that parking pricing reflects the relative value of a space, based on its location and the time of day or week. Parking at downtown meters will be more expensive, while the meters a few blocks away will be less so. When the SFpark pilot projects are launched in summer 2010, SFMTA will adjust the price of parking every four weeks. The price of on-street metered parking will range, based on desirability and demand, from $0.25 to $6.00 per hour, while SFMTA-owned garages and lots will cost up to $10.00.
San Francisco’s ability to manage its transportation needs is unique in that it is one of the few cities in the country where one entity, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), has authority over most aspects of the city’s transportation system. Street design standards, bike and pedestrian accessibility, transit (buses, street cars, light rail, cable cars), parking, and taxis are all managed by the agency. The structure is important in telling the story of SFpark, as it was partly spurred by a transit effectiveness study undertaken by SFMTA.
The transit study concluded that congestion is a primary factor reducing the reliability and speed of on-road transit, which in turn is exacerbated by drivers double-parking and circling to find parking. The findings dovetailed with the agency's push to develop an area road pricing demonstration project, as well as the SFMTA's initiative to more actively manage its parking supply to reduce congestion and clean the air.
Role of Technology
A significant portion of the program’s cost is for the purchase and installation of smart parking meters that can help manage parking and monitor the effectiveness of pricing. The goal is to have one in ten spaces free per block in pilot areas around the city, including downtown, business, and tourist districts. SFpark is in the process of procuring these next-generation meters, which will support various forms of payment, including coins, smart cards, credit cards, and debit cards. Other technologies include handheld parking enforcement devices that will help the program achieve compliance, and parking sensors built into the street to record turnover frequency data minute-by-minute, providing further information about the effect of changing prices. These technologies enable SFMTA to analyze price signals affect parking behavior, and the results in turn will allow the program to calibrate parking prices as behavior and availability evolve.
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