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City’s dynamic parking scheme paying off

If your parking meter has colored buttons and a credit card slot in it, then you’ve just pulled your Prius into one of the most closely-monitored parking spots in the United States.

San Francisco’s network of experimental, interconnected smart parking meters appears to be paying off as hoped, with more revenue coming from meters instead of fines, and more revenue from the new meters, period.

In neighborhoods with the SF Park meters installed, City data showed 70 percent of parking revenue was from paid time, not from fines. The typical revenue-split from traditional coin metered parking is 55 percent paid time, 45 percent fines.

The nascent SF Park meters have been installed in Hayes Valley, the Mission, the Fillmore and Fisherman’s Wharf. They allow drivers to pay by credit or debit card (de rigeur in 2012, really), as well as make remote payment to their meter using their smartphones, if their rendezvous run a bit over time.

Behind the scenes, the meters adjust pricing dynamically in an attempt to ensure parking availability. Not minute-by-minute — yet at least — but once a month, and then in prescribed 50 cent-downward or 25 cent-upward amounts. One open space per block is the goal of the highly-scrutinized experimental program.

Not only did the City data show more people paying through time bought at the meter (or through their phones), they were paying more overall. Each new meter hauled in a extra $267 over the six month pilot program compared to the old meter in its place.

Overall, City parking revenue was down, but with a much smaller decrease at the SF Park meters  — three percent — than the 14 percent drop at old meters.

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