SFpark Makes its First Move

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(San Francisco – KALW) San Francisco’s ambitious parking program will meet its first test later this month, when the city adjusts rates at meters in eight busy neighborhoods to try and better match supply and demand. The program, called SFpark, uses data from sensors embedded in the pavement to track parking demand in real time at meters around the city, and prices each block accordingly: meters in more congested areas are more expensive, while those on emptier streets are cheaper. City staff will make the first price adjustment later this month, based on data collected since the program’s official launch this past spring. The verdict? Prices at about one third of meters will go up by 25 cents to a high of $3.75/hr; another third will drop by 25-50 cents, to as low as $1.75/hr. The final third will remain the same, as will rates at city-owned garages.

SFpark manager Jay Primus said that while the preliminary data is fascinating, the really useful information will come out later this summer, when the city makes its second price adjustment.

“It will be interesting to see how much parking demand has redistributed” in the wake of the first change, he said.

Much of the preliminary data reflects conventional wisdom about parking in San Francisco: it’s tricky to find a space during the week in the Financial District; easier to do so weekend mornings in SoMa. But some of the results seem utterly mystifying. For example, the 200 block of Hayes Street, in the Civic Center neighborhood, often has less than a quarter of its spots filled, while the 300 block is often more than 80% full. As a result, parking costs on the 200 block will drop by as much as 50 cents an hour; on the 300 block they’ll either stay the same or increase by 25 cents, depending on the time of day.

“It is curious,” said Primus of those kinds of areas. “But San Francisco is an incredibly complex and rich city whose subtleties vary from block to block. And we all experience that walking around from day to day.” Any number of things could affect parking demand, he said; the goal of SFpark is to be able to adapt. “Let’s say a new restaurant opens up on a particular block,” he said. “We’ll be able to keep up with that as neighborhoods or blocks change or evolve and grow.”

The program’s goal is to have at least one free space on every block, thus dramatically reducing the need for drivers to circle or double-park. At the same time, it strives for 80% parking occupancy, the idea being that cars should be distributed more or less evenly across the available spots. “We only need a couple people to change their behavior to decide to park on the next block, to create the right level of availability,” said Primus.

Pore over the data yourself, and check out maps showing where prices will change, over at SFpark.