San Francisco will soon start adjusting parking meter and off street garage parking prices based on measured demand. On Monday, the city described the method they will use to make the adjustments.
On-street metered blocks will have prices vary by time of day, in three or four time periods. While some meters open earlier in the morning or run later at night, the changes between morning, afternoon, early evening and late evening time periods will be kept consistent for customer convenience. Some blocks serve a mid-day office crowd, others daytime tourists and shoppers parking later in the day, and others late night entertainment.
In general the time periods for pricing will be from opening (either 7am or 9am) until noon, from noon to 3pm, from 3pm to 7pm, and from 7pm to closing. Most parking meters operate from 9am to 6pm, some from 7am to 6pm or 7pm, and some from 7am to 11pm. Within each of the three time periods, the rate will be the same. If the time you pay for is within two different time periods, the meter will correctly charge you the different rates for the different time periods.
For each block face and time period, on street meters will have their prices adjusted according to the amount of cars parked on that block during that time period. If more than 85% of the spaces are taken, the price will be increased. If the spaces are less than 65% full, the price will be reduced.
For garages, the rate system will be simplified. Many special rates such as flat fee evening parking, will be eliminated. Instead, all garages will have an adjustable hourly rate for different time periods. Monthly and daily rates will be based on multiplying factors by the hourly rates. The billing time period will be rounded up to the nearest half hour instead of hour.
Price adjustments will happen no more frequently than monthly, and the city will make the new rates known a week in advance on the SFMTA and SFpark websites.
This is going to be the big test of whether a city can handle adjustable rates. San Francisco has the parking sensors, they have the computer tracking equipment, they have dedicated staff and the political will. Communicating the process for adjusting prices in advance is an important step that DC did not take when rolling out their similar demand-based performance parking program. DDOT did not have federal funding to purchase occupancy sensors, they did not appear to dedicate staff, and the approval for parking adjustments appears to have been left subject to local community approval, rather than being data-driven.