NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Demand-Based Pricing for Parking

April 7, 2011

San Francisco drivers will be the focus of a nationally watched experiment to combat congestion and air pollution by regularly adjusting parking prices at curbside meters and public garages.  If the city-run program (called SFPark), tentatively set to launch April 21, works as advertised, it will change not only the way motorists pay for parking, but also how they think about it, says the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • Rates at curbside meters in the project area will be adjusted block by block in an attempt to have at least one parking space available at any time on a given block.
  • The hourly rate to park at a meter in San Francisco currently ranges from $2 to $3.50, depending on the neighborhood; agency officials anticipate the price will fluctuate between 25 cents and $6 under SFpark.
  • The price could jump as high as $18 an hour for special events, such as popular ballgames and street festivals; however, the special event rates initially will be closer to $5 an hour.
  • If the parking-availability target isn't met, the hourly rate will go up or down by increments of 25 cents.
  • If the occupancy rate falls within a band of 65 percent to 85 percent, the price will stay the same.

The idea is to charge more when demand is high.  Drivers unwilling to pay higher rates will adjust their travel plans either by driving at off-peak times or abandoning their cars for transit, walking, cabs or bikes, says the Chronicle.

Source: Rachel Gordon, "Parking: S.F. Releases Details on Flexible Pricing," San Francisco Chronicle, April 2, 2011.

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