Not everyone wants to solve their parking problems by sacrificing their dignity and squeezing into one of those tiny urban cruiser cars. Luckily for San Francisco residents, the city is stepping in to try and help them avoid the parking crunch. As part of a $95.5 million program called SFPark, 6,000 of San Francisco’s 24,000 metered parking spaces are being outfitted with sensors that will allow drivers to spot open parking spaces by checking maps on their cell phones or by looking at displays on street signs.
San Francisco isn’t the first city to experiment with cell phone technology in an attempt to clear up congestion on the street. In Niagara Falls and Vancouver, they installed fancy new meters that accept payments via phone last year. SFPark doesn’t just let residents scout for empty spots and buy more parking time without running back to their car though, the smart spaces can also be calibrated to accommodate longer parking stays during evenings. Streetline Industries, a “city infrastructure technologies” company, are the folks responsible for San Francisco’s spiffy parking sensors. Their small, battery-powered, plastic sensors supposedly last for 5-10 years without repairs. The sensors create a wi-fi network that relays parking data from the street to a central management office.
Lack of parking is a serious issue in San Francisco. Donald Shoup, an urban planning expert at UCLA, says his research shows that drivers on the prowl for parking spaces account for as much of 30% of all the traffic in downtown San Francisco. The New York Times also reports that the parking crunch is especially important in San Francisco “because two years ago a 19-year-old, Boris Albinder, was stabbed to death during a fight over a parking space.” Yikes!