Conduct extensive outreach, be transparent about goals, policies, and methods of installing an advanced parking management system, and communicate clearly how the revenue from a new parking management system will be used.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's experience in implementing advanced parking management (Interim Results).

Date Posted

SFpark: Putting Theory Into Practice - Post-launch implementation summary and Lessons learned

Summary Information

The SFpark is a pilot project in San Francisco undertaken in 2008 by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The primary goal of SFpark is to make it easy to find a parking space. In other words, SFpark aims to manage demand for existing parking towards availability targets so that drivers, when they choose to drive, rarely circle to find parking or double-park. To the extent the right level of parking availability is maintained, everyone benefits. Key features of the project are:

  • 80 percent federally funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Urban Partnership Program (a competitive grant process).
  • 8 pilot areas with new policies, technology, and significant data collection.
  • 3 control areas with no new policies or technology but significant data collection.
  • 7,000 metered spaces, or 25 percent of the city's total.
  • 12,250 off-street spaces, or 75 percent of off-street spaces managed by the SFMTA.

Overall goal of SFpark is to collect and disseminate parking availability information and to update a "block-to-block" pricing algorithm every six weeks using "demand responsive rate adjustments" to encourage use of parking garages and increase the availability of on-street parking in high-demand areas. The project helps drivers find spaces with a combination of real-time and static information. Parking way finding signage directs drivers to lots and garages; variable message signs and text messages show which garages have availability; mobile web apps and the region's 511 system show on and off-street parking availability; and an open data feed enables others to display the data as well.

In August 2011, the SFMTA produced a report in the midst of its implementation of the first demand-responsive rate change for both on- and off-street parking. The following lessons learned to date are, therefore, interim – only those gathered during pilot project planning and implementation. At the end of the pilot project in 2013, the lessons from the operation, evolution, and evaluation of the project should expand this section.

Lessons Learned

The SFpark pilot project of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) uses a demand-based approach to adjusting parking rates at metered parking spaces in the SFpark pilot areas and at SFpark garages. SFpark's combination of time-of-day demand-responsive pricing and off-peak discounts at garages is expected to reduce circling and double-parking, as well as influence when and how people choose to travel. Lessons learned from the project communications and outreach aspect of the SFpark pilot project are presented below.

  • Develop an effective communications team and conduct extensive outreach. Having a skilled communications and design team that is passionate about the project was part of the success in launching the SFpark project. Outreach, including hundreds of one-on-one meetings with community leaders from the start of the project, was essential to the project's reception. Through this outreach, key leaders in the community came to understand the project and were then able to explain or advocate for SFpark to constituents who trust their opinion. Project outreach to customers, stakeholders, and within the SFMTA required a large amount of time, passion, and advocacy.
  • Realize parking management as a powerful tool. With the SFpark pilot project, the SFMTA has shifted towards recognizing parking management as a powerful tool for achieving transportation goals. However, many users have been skeptical of the SFMTA's goals for parking management and fear that SFpark is simply a way to raise parking rates. Being able to communicate that promise with our customers and stakeholders, and then follow through by lowering parking rates where merited, was important. These actions help to establish more trust and credibility in SFMTA parking management.
  • Be transparent about parking goals, policies, and methods. Transparent communications by the project management helped to be open and clear about SFpark's goals, policies, and methods. For instance, when prices are adjusted, it is clear why decisions are made to raise rates, lower them, or keep them the same.
  • Communicate clearly how the revenue from parking is used. In San Francisco, revenue from parking meters, citations, and garages is returned to the SFMTA to support transit services. It was important to have a clear explanation of how parking revenue from SFpark (or SFMTA parking management) is used, and relating parking management revenues to funding transit and the overall transportation system is typically well-received.

Communications and outreach to stakeholders is critical to deployment of advanced parking management as a tool to manage parking supply and demand, rate, and reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. To the extent that SFpark successfully achieves these functions, the project is also relevant to other cities because it is easily replicable. SFpark is expected to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and emissions, increase safety for all road users, and enhance quality of life.