parkingmeter_generic1.jpgRelated: Smart Meters Here To Take Your Credit Card, Charge You As Much As $18/Hr

At today’s unveiling of newly installed “smart meters” as part of the SFPark pilot project, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency had a message for the city’s drivers: we’re working for you.

Not only will the meters make it easier to park by improving space availability, but the SFMTA is anticipating that the ease of payment will mean fewer drivers will be taking a chance by parking without paying.

That’s because the new meters, 190 of which were launched today in Hayes Valley, accept payment by credit card in addition to coins.

Over the next two years, the SFMTA will collect data from 8,300 wireless sensors and thousands of smart meters launched through the SFPark pilot.

SFMTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said that making it easier for drivers to pay for parking will help them avoid the frustration that comes with parking citations.

“We’d much prefer that our revenue comes from meters,” Ford said.

Currently, the city collects approximately $26 million in parking meter revenue and $20 million from issuing parking citations, Ford said.

By extending time limits at some metered spaces and offering flexible payment options, the SFMTA expects to issue fewer parking citations, according to the SFPark website.

As the parking program gains momentum, less double parking and fewer drivers circling high-demand areas are expected to improve San Francisco Municipal Railway services, according to the SFMTA.

The meter rates, which range from 25 cents per hour to $6 per hour, will be adjusted based on demand over the course of the pilot program. Currently, drivers pay between $1 and $3.50 per hour.

Prices might triple during special events, such as baseball games, meaning drivers would be asked to spend up to $18 per hour for street parking.

Ford said the pilot program aims to achieve a stable number of available spaces – the target value is 15 percent availability. According to the SFPark website, that number will be attained by charging the lowest possible hourly rate.

“It’s our goal to use the meters for congestion and to curb emissions,” Ford said. “We are collecting the data to make better decisions.”

When the agency releases the sensor network data to the public in early 2011, the SFMTA anticipates software developers will develop applications that deliver real-time data to motorists through smart phones or other GPS navigation systems.

Over the next three months, 5,100 smart meters will replace existing meters across eight pilot areas in six regions of the city, including Fisherman’s Wharf and the South of Market area, which were selected for their mix of tourism, residential and commercial activity.

Although the SFMTA also offers parking cards in varying denominations, those cards are not yet compatible with the new meters because of software issues. Ford said that payment option should become available within the next two months.

The new meters will operate within the same parking times as existing meters, meaning drivers will continue to park free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays.

More information on the SFPark program is available at

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