Thursday, August 30, 2012
By Julie Caine
There's a wonky academic theory that if you raise parking meter prices enough, eventually, there will always be one parking spot free on every block. It's like park-topia, a place that glistens in the near future of urban planers' imaginations. Well, San Francisco is trying it, and the prices are getting higher and higher without a "sweet spot" for some hot blocks.
You can now expect to pay as much as $5.25 and hour at some metered spots in SF. The strategy called “dynamic pricing” is something we've been keeping our eye on at TN because, if it works, it could mean less traffic, more faster (and maybe fewer) car rides into downtowns, and overall smarter transportation systems. The crux of the experiment relies on real-time data about who is parking where and variable rates for different streets to ease congestion and help drivers find elusive public parking spots faster.
The SFMTA launched the pilot project in 2011, using data from parking meters to create an app that lets drivers see where the available spots are in some of the city’s densest neighborhoods. The argument is that if drivers know exactly where to find a place to park, they won’t have to circle in search of a spot, which will make drivers less frustrated, make the streets safer, reduce pollution, and give public transit more room to maneuver. Theoretically, even if it costs more it will still be worth it in time savings. But ... how much more?
Pricing for parking varies according to demand: right now you can pay anywhere from $.25 to over that shocking peak price of $5.25 an hour, depending on where and when you park. That difference in price is meant to spread the parking around; the ultimate goal is making sure that there’s always at least one available spot on the streets involved in the pilot.
The latest rate increase is the seventh since the project launched. Prices can’t go above $6 an hour under the pilot, still far less than a parking lot price. So, what happens if peak streets hit the price ceiling? It's unclear how the city would adapt the SF Park plan.
But it seems to be working. The SF Gate reports that fewer than 2 percent of meters are pushing the price limit now at the temporary maximum price of $5.25. The most common prices are below $2 an hour.
Plus, there are special exceptions to the $6 cap, like big events or ball games. For those, meters can hit $18 an hour. The program is adaptable after all.
GUEST POST: What's Next on Transit Grants, Dynamic Parking? Secretary Ray LaHood Answers Your Questions
Friday, July 22, 2011
(Ray LaHood, Secretary, US Department of Transportation -- Washington DC) TN Readers Prove America is a Transportation Nation
First things first: Thank you, Transportation Nation, for submitting such great questions for this month's edition of "On the Go." I'm so encouraged by the number of Americans who pay close attention to transportation issues because I know you'll be there to support us when we get things right, and I know you'll hold our feet to the fire if we don't.
Thank you, also, for allowing me the opportunity here to answer a few more of your terrific questions.
The first question comes from Tom Roberts on Facebook, who asks: "When will there be a TIGER III?"
Tom, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that the third round of TIGER grant opportunities is already in the works, and we begin accepting pre-applications on August 22. TIGER supports innovative transportation projects that will create jobs and have a significant impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area. The competitive awards empower communities to build the transportation networks they need. The first two rounds of TIGER have been very successful, and I'm proud of the 126 projects--in all 50 states and the District of Columbia--that we've recognized with $2.1 billion in TIGER grants. In this third round, Congress has made available $527 million.
The bad news? We're not calling it TIGER III. Because it has been so successful, TIGER might be around for a while; with more rounds to come, we're ready to leave the numbering behind us.
ParkingInMotion asked on Twitter: "What are your early opinions of San Francisco's SFpark program, and what it will do for the future of smart parking in cities?"
SFpark is an exciting new pilot program operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, using a $19.4 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration. The system provides users real-time information on parking availability before they get into their cars and helps San Francisco drivers spend less time searching for parking. It also helps reduce congestion and emissions from idling cars because drivers will know exactly where to find parking spaces. And, the system can efficiently distribute parking space availability by raising or lowering meter rates block-by-block based on the number of spaces available nearby.
In a recent survey by our Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 89 percent of the people who responded said that adequate parking was an important factor in a community's livability. So, I think an innovative system that can save drivers time, fuel and frustration is an important development. But, I want to make sure everyone knows to use this technology only when their car is safely off the road.
Finally, asquit4 asks on Twitter: "How will DOT incentivize infrastructure maintenance and preservation for states to do more with less?"
Amy, deciding which projects take priority, whether new construction, repair, or maintenance, is a state decision. But promoting innovative technologies that deliver long-lasting infrastructure faster and do more with less is at the core of what the Federal Highway Administration does. And if you read my Fast Lane blog post from Wednesday about the Fast 14 project , you'll see what I mean. FHWA also recently launched an improved bridge oversight initiative that will allow us to more easily identify problem issues in each state.
Well, you can see that I wasn't kidding about getting good questions this month. Please keep those questions coming. And, please, keep yourself engaged in these issues--as Transportation Nation followers know, transportation is about a lot more than just getting from one place to another.