Solving Cities

Is San Francisco's parking experiment relieving congestion?

Is San Francisco's parking experiment relieving congestion?

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A program to make at least one parking spot available on each block has been underway for a year in San Francisco. Is it working?

Last year, San Francisco rolled out an innovative experiment to relieve parking congestion along city streets.

Now, the program known as SF Park seems to be achieving its mission to make sure there's at least one parking spot open on each block where the city has installed the pilot parking meters, according to an analysis of data by The New York Times:

Change can already be seen on a stretch of Drumm Street downtown near the Embarcadero and the popular restaurants at the Ferry Building. Last summer it was nearly impossible to find spots there. But after the city gradually raised the price of parking to $4.50 an hour from $3.50, high-tech sensors embedded in the street showed that spots were available a little more often — leaving a welcome space the other day for the silver Toyota Corolla driven by Victor Chew, a salesman for a commercial dishwasher company who frequently parks in the area.

“There are more spots available now,” said Mr. Chew, 48. “Now I don’t have to walk half a mile.”

The idea behind the parking program is that as prices gradually rise (at most, 25 cents every two months) for popular parking spots and fall in areas where parking is less popular (at most, 50 cents every two months). The most expensive spots are expected to rise to as much as $6 an hour. It's simple supply and demand.

Using high-tech sensors in the street, drivers can get real-time information about prices and parking availability using an app. The tool is meant to give drivers an idea of the city's parking situation before they leave their house, which could save time otherwise wasted looking for a parking spot.

The analysis says it's too early to determine if the program has been successful overall. It will be some time before the peak spots reach their maximum price of $6 an hour. But they did find that three-fourths of the city blocks that are participating in the program either hit their desired occupancy rate or moved toward their occupancy rate goal.

A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots [The New York Times]

Photo: CoDiFi/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure