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article imageNew San Francisco parking rates determined by supply and demand

By Heidi Lowry     Aug 11, 2010 in Business
San Francisco - Soon San Franciscans won't need to rely on luck and prayers to the parking gods, though it might cost them. New "SFpark" parking meters will charge more for parking spaces in popular areas. Spots in less popular places will cost less.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says the switch to smart parking meters equipped with sensors that tell them when and where parking is most in-demand will help relieve traffic congestion in busy areas and assure drivers that parking spots will always be available when they need them.
Dubbed "demand-responsive pricing," parking fees will be determined by SFpark according to how many cars are in each parking area at a time. Using that data, places in higher demand will cost more. According to the SFpark website, the program is not meant to increase parking revenues, but to make more spaces available.
The current goals are to have 20 percent of parking spots in an area open at all times, and to make people more aware of underutilized parking venues like city-run garages, where parking should cost less because there is less demand for it.
Now, parking rates at San Francisco meters fall between $1 and $3.50 per hour. Under the new system, parking fees will range from 25 cents per hour to $6 per hour. During special events like sports games, prices can go beyond the $6 limit. SFpark authorities promise rates will never increase by more than 50 cents per hour, no more than once a month, though rates will fluctuate based on the time of day and the day of the week.
Data collected by SFpark meters will be sent to SFpark.org, so travelers can look up how much available parking exists and how much it will cost before they leave the house. The information will also be used by city planners to determine what parts of the city need more parking options.
New SFpark meters will replace outdated coin and card meters in phases. The first began July 27 in parts of Hayes Valley. The rest of the Hayes Valley meters will be replaced by the end of August. In the next two to the three months, 5,100 parking meters will be introduced in the Financial District, the Marina, the Fillmore, SOMA, the Mission, Civic Center, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
San Francisco isn't the only city trying to develop methods to ease traffic congestion caused by circling drivers attempting to find parking, though it is the first in the United States to use shifting fees to reach that goal.
Seattle will roll out an ePark system by Labor Day that will use digital sensors to tell drivers how many open spaces exist in short-term, off-street parking garages in the downtown area. Digital screens placed on street corners will display the number of spots, so drivers won't need to drive by a participating garage only to find out it is full. The number of participating garages will increase in the coming year.
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