New Meters Aim to Cure Parking Headaches

Soon San Francisco drivers won’t need to cruise endlessly in search of an available parking spot.

By the end of March, San Francisco will have replaced more than 5,000 old parking meters with state-of-the-art versions that take credit cards, and, if all goes according to plan, work with sensors to indicate when a car is there.

Other Bay Area cities such as Sausalito and Redwood City have already shifted away from coin-only machines to so-called smart parking meters that help make parking more convenient for drivers and easier to manage for the cities. San Francisco’s $25 million project intends to go a step beyond the other early adopters, using the new meters to reduce car congestion on city streets.

While other cities are using smart meters to simply charge different rates at different hours, San Francisco plans to use the meters to influence how many people park in a particular area at a particular time. The long-term goal is to continuously adjust rates up or down to keep 15 percent of spaces in a neighborhood free, says Nathaniel Ford, executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The city hopes the project can reduce emissions on the streets by stopping people from “circling around trying to sharp-shoot a parking spot,” says Mr. Ford.

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