San Francisco parking goes digital with new program

May 21, 2010 7:22:25 PM PDT
You know what a hassle it can be trying to park in San Francisco, but that agonizing process is about to go digital. Soon, motorists will be able to see where spaces are available, and how much they cost ahead of time.

Little white boxes on the ground are sensors that will tell the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency whether or not the space is occupied and for how long.

Roughly 8,300 of them will be installed for the SFpark pilot program and when they are activated later this summer, the public will be able to go online or on their smart phone to check on where parking is more or less available. They can also check the time limit and how much it costs in the pilot areas.

"By having people get to where they want to go faster and easier, stop circling, then we reduce congestion in the city," says Kristen Holland from the SFMTA.

Most of the $25 million SFpark system is being paid for with a federal congestion management grant amounting to $19.8 million.

"Why not use technology instead of going around the block four or five times instead of telling me directly where to go and save me time? Are they going to charge me more?" says motorist Kurt Sonderegger.

There is a catch: the sensor data could lead to an increase in the price of parking where it's in high demand and a drop in price where it is not. Sensor data could also lead to longer time limits and high-tech meters will offer a variety of ways to pay.

"It'll help people and I know you may not believe this, it will reduce the number of parking citations we issue. That is our goal," says Holland.

It will be at least another two years before SFpark goes citywide on all 440,246 spots. Until then, people will rely on their own time-tested tricks to find a space.

"We call upon a certain parking angel," says motorist Deborah Carter.

SFpark will be the first system of its kind in the U.S.


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