parking_meters.jpgSome San Francisco parking meters will be getting a facelift today, allowing motorists to pay with credit or debit card.

These changes come under the cities new SF Park program, and will first pop up in Hayes Valley later this afternoon. The meters weren’t just upgraded to keep your pockets clear of handfuls of loose change, though. They’re part of a city run experiment, which hopes to analyze parking habits and eventually make finding a spot not so damn frustrating.

The pilot system, which will be in eight neighborhoods once in full force, is at first glance a little confusing. Some of the 5,100 total spaces will cost much more, some much less. And each month, a spot’s price could change.

Parking spots in prime locations could cost as much as $6 an hour, according to SF Gate. Spots that get passed up frequently, on the other hand, could cost as little as 50 cents an hour. Rates for “special events” parking, could be as much as $18 an hour.

Over the next two years, each spot’s price will be messed with, to see how it affects the desirability of the parking spot. The spot’s activity will be reported to the SFMTA via wireless technology planted in the asphalt. To avoid any major confusion (and preserve driver sanity), a spots price will at most change only once a month, and not by more than 50 cents.

The city hopes these experiments will cut down on traffic caused by people forced to circle the block to find an empty spot, which causes 30% of the city’s traffic says the Ex. The city also expects to make more revenue from these new parking meters, but says they will probably be handing out less parking tickets because time restrictions will be loosened in some areas.

Eventually, electronic signs and reportedly a smart phone app will direct drivers to open spots through out the city. The city also plans on releasing prepaid parking cards to work with the new machines. The project cost $24.75 million, $19.8 million of that being a federal grant.

Neighborhoods affected: Hayes Valley, Financial District, Marina, Fillmore, South of Market, Mission, Civic Center, Fisherman’s Wharf

What do you think? Does the new pay-by-card technology make parking easier? Or will the price fluctuations totally cancel that convenience out?

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