San Francisco pilots demand-driven parking rates

San Francisco applies laws of supply and demand economics to free up scarcity of curbside parking.

There's a theory that applying principles of supply and demand to parking spaces would help free up scarcity in curbside parking -- by adjusting the cost so that there was always an available space for those willing to pay a bit more. Now, technology that regulates parking meters, combined with analytics, is helping the city of San Francisco to do just that.

The city recently launched its SFPark pilot program, which is tasked, among other things, with incrementally raising or lowering parking rates in pilot areas based on demand. This should help make parking easier to find on the street and at city garages. Rates will change no more than once a month and only in small increments.

Matthew Roth, writing in, says the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency installed of 8,255 vehicle sensors in the SFPark pilot areas that enable the agency to track vehicle parking patterns in real-time, to develop an accurate picture of parking spot turnover and availability. The embedded sensors communicate wirelessly to nearby parking meters.

The SFPark trial began this summer, and will run for two years at 6,000 curbside spaces and 12,250 garage spaces in seven commercial areas around the city, Streetsblog reports.

Jay Primus, SFPark project manager for the SFMTA, is quoted as saying that other cities, including Redwood City, Old Pasadena and New York City, have already experimented with demand-responsive parking, but none of them has the benefit of the extensive sensor system, which will create a robust parking data set.

With SFPark's demand-sensitive metering, drivers will be better informed about parking spot availability. It is estimated that 30 percent of driving time in San Francisco is spent searching for parking.

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