San Francisco begins switch to variably-priced parking

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has begun switching eight sections of the city to variably-priced parking — replacing nearly 5,100 parking meters and installing sensors that detect when a parking space is occupied. In October, the pilot SFpark program will be in full operation in the Financial District, Civic Center, Hayes Valley, SoMa, the Mission, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Fillmore, and the Marina.

New single- and multi-space meters accept coins, credit and debit cards, and SFMTA parking cards. Parking rates will change — but no more than once a month, and in small increments, depending on what the demand turns out to be, the agency says. The project is a two-year, federally-funded tryout of new parking management technologies.

SFMTA anticipates that motorists will find parking spaces more quickly, since variable prices will increase turnover. The result, says the agency, will be less circling, fewer double-parked cars, cleaner air, and safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians. A 2.5-minute video explaining the project can be seen here.

Meanwhile, the New York City Department of Transportation reports that variably-priced parking is reducing congestion and allowing merchants and restaurants to attract more customers in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood.    Peak-hour meter rates doubled, to $1.50 from 75 cents an hour, on two of Park Slope’s commercial corridors.

By eliminating some of the cruising for scarce open parking spots, the program reduced peak traffic volumes 5 percent on Fifth Avenue and 9 percent on Seventh Avenue, according to DOT. Encouraged by its success, DOT is proposing to make the pilot program permanent and to expand it in Park Slope.