Manage uncertainty and discovery associated with procurement of advanced parking management technologies and plan for potential delays resulting from permitting and regulation processes.

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. This demand-responsive pricing is at the heart of the SFpark pilot project and finds the lowest rates possible that achieve parking availability targets. 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 SFpark procurement administration are presented below.

  • Manage uncertainty and discovery associated with procurement of advanced parking management technologies. Because of the high degree of uncertainty and immaturity in the field, a significant amount of discovery was required for the development of the backend SFpark system. The collaborative and interactive Agile methodology rather than the more traditional process-based approach to project management was more appropriate as the project plan had to be continuously adjusted. Schedule uncertainty was also introduced by different political considerations.
  • Plan for potential delays resulting from permitting and regulations. Permitting and regulations (e.g., poles, street installation, power, signs), as well as contract negotiations for new technologies, took much more time than expected.
  • Adopt a flexible procurement approach and beware of challenges in procurement logistics. The logistics of procuring so much new equipment itself presented significant challenges, and required resources, such as warehouse and staging areas, people to receive and verify the goods, accounting, and so on. It was important to choose a flexible contracting and procurement approach so that the project could move quickly in an unpredictable environment.

Advanced parking management is a mitigation tool for reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. However, technology based parking management has uncertainties and, therefore, the responsible city agency is expected to be aware of procurement challenges as experienced by SFMTA. To the extent that SFpark successfully manages parking demand to manage congestion and emissions, the project is also relevant to other cities because it is easily replicable. SFpark is expected to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, increase safety for all road users, and enhance quality of life.