Car culture in North America has led to massive subsidies for car drivers that go pretty much unnoticed. One of these subsidies is in the way of “free parking,” which is anything but free. Cars occupy space during the day that could be used for productive means or green space, instead cars sit unused with nobody inside of them most of the time.
In San Francisco they have changed their municipal parking system to reflect market demands for parking space. The result is a drop in people who “cruise” looking for parking spaces. Therefore, car drivers have become a little less destructive in the city.
According to a study published last month in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, the program has worked. San Francisco’s occupancy goals have been met, and “cruising” for parking — driving around and clogging up streets after you’ve already reached your destination — is down by 50 percent.
The group of researchers — who represent the University of California, Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon and transit consultancy Nelson\Nygaard — analyzed the 256 blocks subject to SFpark and compared them to a 55-block control group. With access to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s data, the team had a total of more than 2.4 million data points during metered hours to analyze.
Using a model to simulate a driver looking for parking (the model “cruises” down a street and, if it doesn’t find any open spaces, takes a series of random turns until it does), the researchers estimated that the blocks under SFpark saw a 50 percent reduction in cruising. They also found that the program met its goal of a 60-80 percent occupancy rate for spots. Under the program, if occupancy was below 60 percent, parking rates were cut by 25 cents. If more than 80 percent of spots on a block were occupied during metered hours, rates were hiked by the same amount.