Prices Would Vary Depending on Demand, Time of Day
By Thomas K. Pendergast
New parking meters are coming to the Sunset District this
year and City officials expect the new technology in them to make
it easier to find parking along Taraval Street.
Demand-responsive parking meters adjust parking rates at on-street
metered spaces and city-owned garages, using the “lowest
possible rates to achieve the right amount of parking availability
based on user demand throughout the day” according to the
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni).
Meter rates are expected to range from between 50 cents up
to $7 an hour, depending on a few factors, like time of day and location.
There will be no net loss or gain in the total number of meters
along Taraval Street, which will initially be placed between
14th and 29th avenues. Some old meters will be removed from select
spaces and new meters added to others, so eventually the entire
Taraval corridor will be demand-responsive parking.
The new meters are part of a general expansion into “smarter”
technology for parking throughout the City, after a pilot program
tested the idea out in seven areas of San Francisco: the Civic Center,
downtown, Fillmore, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina, Mission and South Embarcadero.
“The idea is that all meters in the City will be getting demand-responsive
pricing going forward … as a way to try and minimize
congestion, reduce circling, make it easier for people to find parking spaces by
pricing spaces by time of day, and by weekday versus weekend, to really get at
what the right price is for any given block at any given time,” said Hank Willson,
Muni’s parking policy manager.
“Under the SFPark pilot program, we adjusted rates block by block and by
time of day. And what we saw is that prices fluctuated pretty significantly,” Wilson said.
San Francisco’s new parking meter system will split up the
day into three time bands: 9 a.m. to noon, noon to 3 p.m. and then
3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The rates can fluctuate based on the time of day,
so any given block could have three different rates over the course of a day.
“A very, very small percentage of the block time is actually
up to the (maximum amount), and those were in places like the
Financial District and Chestnut Street in the Marina. Overall, we
saw the average rates actually went down, both on street and
off street in the garages,” Willson said.
Muni claims that when streets have free parking, parking tends
to be difficult to find. On the other hand, streets that have metered
parking tend to have much more parking available.
“In a lot of cases on Taraval Street, on a Wednesday at 11
a.m., where the meters are running, it’s generally not nearly as
hard to find a parking space, and it’s because of the meters.
Having to pay something to park encourages people to do what
they need to do and then move along, and create that availability
for the next person who needs to come and do some shopping,”
he said. “Let’s give people an incentive to shift demand both in
time and in space, to say ‘don’t everybody go to try to park
on that one block that everyone else is trying to go to.’
You can find a deal if you go a block down the
street or two blocks over and park it cheaper, and then you can
walk back to your destination.Or, if you could shift your trip to
come in e ar l ier in the day, then you’ll pay less than if you try to
come in right at the peak time.’”
Muni is aiming to install the new meters on Taraval Street
sometime this summer, although some might be going in later than
that. “We actually know how to use the meter payment data as a
proxy for occupancy. We did a fairly sophisticated analysis during
the pilot of sensor occupancy data versus meter payment data
to develop essentially a coefficient that tells you when this percentage
of meters are paid, then that means this percentage are
basically occupied, he explained. “It’s definitely an estimate but we think it’s accurate
when you’re aggregating data over the course of several weeks and you’re
making price changes just once a quarter, as we plan to
do. That’s a pretty accurate reflection most of the time as to what’s
happening on the street.”
For a detailed evaluation of the pilot program for
demand-responsive parking meters, go to the website at