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Know Your Parking Spots

San Francisco is one of a handful of cities in the U.S. using embedded sensors in parking lots to communicate with smartphones, directing drivers to the nearest spot. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority manages 20 public parking garages across San Francisco. With their SFpark program, the agency uses demand-responsive pricing to improve parking and reduce congestion from people looking for open spots. The rates vary by block, time of day and day of week. In order to determine the right price to charge for parking to make sure spots are available, SFpark uses wireless sensors to detect parking space occupancy in metered spaces. The variable pricing encourages drivers to park in underutilized lots and areas, reducing congestion in other areas.

In addition to the parking information map available on the website, information on parking availability is distributed via a free app as well. SFpark encourages independent developers to use its data and source code to create new apps and data visualizations that support the project’s goal of making parking more readily available. The evaluation from the initial pilot in 2014 showed a 16 percent reduction in the amount of time that blocks were too full to find parking. The agency continues to make periodic rate adjustments based on occupancy data collected by the sensors.

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