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San Francisco Rolls Out Supply-and-Demand Pricing for Parking Meters

The endless search for a parking spot in the city may be a thing of the past—in San Francisco, at least. After years of preparation, the city is now rolling out SFpark, a high-tech new system that will set the price of parking spots according to supply and demand.

To reduce congestion, San Francisco is aiming to have one spot open at all times on every block. Here's how the plan works: A network of wireless sensors lets the city keep track of which parking spots are empty. If a particular block never has available spots, the city raises the meter rates until it does. In places where parking is plentiful, rates fall. As an added bonus, this information-age system lets residents check the rates and availability of parking online before deciding to drive.


In the first phase of the rollout, now underway, the city is installing 190 new meters in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. That will be followed by 5,100 more new meters in seven other areas.

The system is expected to increase revenue from parking meters, but decrease revenue from traffic tickets. How this will balance out for the city budget is unclear. Also unclear: Just how high the prices will go. Will there be $10 per hour parking?

What it should do, however, is keep the streets from being so crowded with cars and help people avoid needless driving. Average motorist, meet Adam Smith.

Image: David Gartner for SFMTA

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