Demand-based parking to stretch citywide in 2018

Parking rates at nearly all of San Francisco’s 28,000 on-street parking meters and city-owned garages and lots will be based on demand, starting in mid-January next year.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors unanimously voted in favor of a program where parking meter rates will be higher in areas where demand is high, but lower where demand is lower.

Rates will change gradually by 25 cents every three months, where the transit agency will review rates that need to be raised, lowered or left unchanged, said Hank Wilson, parking policy manager for the SFMTA.

Parking meter rates vary block by block and time of day.

Wilson said the point of the program is to make it easier for drivers to find a parking spot in The City and for drivers to consider parking a block or two away from their destination where rates could be cheaper, leaving high-demand spaces open for drivers who need to park there.

The SFMTA already began testing the demand-based parking meter rate through its federally-funded SFpark program in 2011. Fisherman’s Wharf, downtown, South of Market, the Embarcadero, the Marina, the Fillmore, Civic Center and the Mission were all part of the pilot program.

During the pilot, parking meter rates at on-street and off-street parking meters decreased, said Wilson. Also, drivers spent less time looking for a parking space. The SFMTA continued the program in those areas in 2014.

Wilson also addressed concerns from critics that the change was similar to “surge pricing,” which is associated with ride hailing app services who charge more in areas of high demand:

“Surge pricing only goes up. Demand responsive pricing goes down.”

Another issue that was brought up was an $8 hourly rate at parking meters. While the policy allows for the transit agency to charge as high as $8, Wilson said none of the 7,000 SFpark meters ever reached the $8 hourly rate.

Director Joél Ramos said he is looking forward to safer streets as drivers will be able to find a parking spot more easily:

“I always feel it’s the most dangerous time riding a bike Friday night because people are just going nuts looking for parking.”

Ramos added:

“The flow of our streets is so much nicer when people can find places to park.”