National Geographic : 2012 Dec
NEXT | CITY SOLUTIONS MAPS: LAZARO GAMIO LEFT . SOURCE: JAY PRIMUS, SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION AGENCY. NGM MAPS Smart Parking The hunt for street parking in busy cities is enough to drive motorists around the bend. Nonstop circling isn't just a drag for drivers---it's a drag on cities. Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor hailed as the "prophet of parking," estimates that a third of traffic on congested downtown streets involves drivers seek- ing spots. San Francisco is taking aim with a pilot program that prices parking based on demand. Sensors in 7,000 of the city's parking spaces provide data for mobile apps that alert drivers when spaces are open. Meanwhile, prices around local hot spots go up at peak times to encourage parking on sleepier streets, where prices go down. Rates are reevaluated every six weeks. Downtown Los Angeles is now following suit; Washington, D.C., and New York City aren't far behind. The goal is to make parking easier and more convenient. Says Jay Primus, the San Francisco project's leader, "We want people to stop worrying about parking and be free to enjoy themselves." ---Gretchen Parker Weekday, 3 to 7 p.m. $2.75 Median rate per hour 68% Average occupancy $4.25 Median rate per hour 91% Average occupancy Weekend, 3 to 7 p.m. FLUID PARKING RATES A popular place, like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, can involve parking headaches. To make spots available at peak times, the city is testing variable parking rates. Prime spots and busier periods mean higher prices. 0mi 4 0km 4 Other test area Fisherman's Wharf test area (enlarged at left) SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco Bay 25¢ $1 2 3 4 5 0% 50 100 PARKING RATE (per hour) OCCUPANCY $1.25 $1 $1 During weekends the rate increases to $4.25. $3.25 $4.25 $3.75 The parking rate on this block is just 25¢ an hour on weekdays.