Smart parking becomes a reality

By Felix Salmon
August 10, 2010

I’m very excited that San Francisco has finally launched its new SFpark system. And I love their video introduction to it:

The only thing I have to complain about here is that the parking-meter pricing isn’t nearly as dynamic as I’d like: rates can only change once per month, and never by more than 50 cents. I’d love to see rates change much more dynamically than that, especially on big days where some kind of special event means much higher parking demand than usual.

But the central idea is brilliant, and should be adopted everywhere: reduce traffic congestion by pricing parking according to demand — including pricing garages lower than street parking — so that there’s nearly always at least one free parking space on every block. No more crawling around interminably looking for a spot! Congestion should drop immediately, since a huge proportion of city traffic is people looking for somewhere to park.

The proof of the pudding, of course, will come now that the SFpark system is up and running: I hope that the city planners have been taking detailed congestion and vehicle-speed measurements, so that they can quantify exactly how those things change in the wake of SFpark’s introduction. It’ll take a little while for the rates to stabilize at the right levels, of course, so don’t expect immediate results. But come back in a year’s time, and I’d love to see some numbers on how and whether this scheme works.

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