San Francisco will become the first U.S. city to base its parking rates on driver demand citywide.
Beginning in mid-January, motorists who park in the city’s 30,200 metered spaces, or in its lots and garages, will be charged more during peak times and less when demand isn’t as high. Hourly rates will vary by time of day and block by block and be adjusted up or down four times a year, depending on actual use during the previous quarter. . . .
Although several U.S. cities have experimented with limited versions of demand-based pricing, San Francisco is the first one to apply the system across the city.
MTA planners say their goal is to increase the availability of coveted city parking spaces, particularly in areas where demand is high. Where demand-based rates are raised, drivers will be motivated to shorten their stays. Or they will park outside of high-demand blocks, where rates are lower, or even leave their cars at home. . . .
Because rates can’t increase more than 25 cents a month, Willson said, it would take years for them to rise significantly. But, he said the MTA expects parking revenues to remain flat overall.
In areas that have had the demand-based rates, he said, “the best thing you can say is that it’s been a nonissue. Nobody notices.”
About 7,000 of the city’s meters already employ the demand-based rate program. The idea got its start in 2011 when the city embarked on a three-year federally funded test in several neighborhoods where parking is in short demand.
The MTA declared the program, known as SFpark, a success, and continued it in some of the city’s busiest neighborhoods — downtown, South of Market, the Mission, the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Mission Bay, the Fillmore and the Marina.
At the same time, the city replaced its old mechanical coin-only meters with electronic meters that take credit cards, parking cards or coins, and allow motorists to pay by mobile phone. The meters are linked, allowing them to be remotely monitored and programmed, enabling the MTA to measure demand and adjust rates. . . .
Under the program, the MTA reviews hourly rates every three months, and decides whether to raise or lower them, in 25-cent increments, or leave them unchanged. The decisions are based on how many vacant metered spaces are typically available on a block during three times of day: morning, midday and evenings.
Rates can go as low as 50 cents an hour during low-demand times or as high as $8 an hour at peak times, according to MTA policy, but the highest rate now is $7 an hour. The average rate at the existing 7,000 demand-based parking spaces, Willson said, is about $2.50. . . .
For everything you probably didn't want to know about the rationale for demand-priced parking, see http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/PrefaceHighCostFreeParking.pdf