Utilize organizational assets and competencies effectively; do not underestimate the need and efforts for building internal consensus and cultural change when implementing a new parking management system.

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 SFpark institutional issues are presented below.

  • Recognize that agency structure facilitates parking technology implementation. The fact that the SFMTA manages on street parking, the city's parking garages and lots, and parking enforcement allowed the SFMTA to focus more resources on project delivery instead of interagency coordination and communication. In some cities, various parking functions are managed by separate agencies, which may pose significant challenges.
  • Utilize organizational assets and competencies effectively. The SFMTA Meter Shop was critical. SFpark was only possible because of the Meter Shop's strong support of the program. One foundation for the SFpark pilot project was the Meter Shop's existing meter data and configuration management system. Without it, the SFpark project team likely would have had to undertake that separate, and sizeable, development effort. The existing system also meant that the Meter Shop was already accustomed to using information systems to manage meters and could help guide the SFpark development team.
  • Do not underestimate the need and efforts for building internal consensus and cultural change. Even with the SFMTA's advantageous organizational authority and oversight, building internal consensus and cooperation for SFpark's significant policy, organizational, and technological changes required significant time and effort.

An agency's institutional capacity such as organizational structure, assets, consensus building, and culture will influence the deployment of an advanced parking management system, which, if successful, helps achieve goals of reducing traffic congestion and vehicular greenhouse gas emissions. To the extent that SFpark successfully manages parking supply and demand, and reduces 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.