SFpark has been around for approximately nine months as a big experiment where us lab rats (citizens & visitors of SF) pay for parking on a market demand system with new parking meters that takes your credit cards, allows longer time to park, and an app that shows people about parking availability and prices (which initially failed).
So after all these months, who are the winners and losers? Let's take a look:
- SFMTA/government - they rake money hand over fist because they jack-up parking rates during peak times and also accepts credit cards for those who doesn't like carrying a roll of quarters. Can that extra money help fix Muni?
- Off-peak parking rates - If you park in a garage like Japantown's, you pay only $1 per hour for parking before 9AM and after 6PM. The street spots are all taken, so the garage's $1 per hour fee is nice; especially they do it by the half-hour, so if you don't need a full hour, it's just $0.50 for every 30 minutes.
- Clear signage at garages - It's easy to know what the parking rates are with their big clear signage at the garage entrance.
- Walking an extra block - The SFpark map shows the parking rates for the pilot program's area. In some cases, just one block away, the parking rate is LOWER. For example, on Webster street, from 12PM to 3PM, it's $2.50 an hour, just across the street is just $2.00 an hour.
- Neighborhood stores & restaurants - With lower rates at non-peak times, it means more people will visit the neighborhood and patronize. For $1 an hour in the Japantown lot after 6PM, merchants can help bring in more of the dinner crowd.
- Parking still free at meters - Sundays, some holidays, and before 9AM and after 6PM is still FREE!
- The parking meters - It's nice to know that just a block away parking might be cheaper, but the meters don't tell you the parking rate until you park your car and read the little screen telling you that.
- Extreme variable parking rates - If the city authorized special parking rates for "special events" you could be paying outrageous parking fees (between $5 and $40), even if you have no interest or want to participate in the "special event."
- SFpark app - It's illegal to use a phone while driving, so how in the heck will you know what the parking rate or availability is?
- Peak-parking rates at garages - $2.50 an hour in the Japantown lot vs. going down the block and getting lucky with a street space for $2 an hour is a big deal for this broke blogger.
- PayByPhone service - 45 cent fee per transaction? At least using a traditional credit card has a ZERO fee.
- Future NFC payments for parking - There's very few NFC (near field communication) cell phones, such as the Google Nexus S that does NFC; the ever popular iPhone 4S and older iPhone models don't have NFC.
- Attitudes of consumers - To me, a change in the parking rate doesn't force me to drive less, park further away, or take the bus; if I find a parking space and it says $3 an hour, I'm going to pay it because I've already been driving around the block several times finding some kind of parking space.
In my opinion, I like SFpark because the off-peak rates are very attractive, but the peak rates just wants to make a bigger hole in my wallet. How long more until parking garages and meters will take Clipper cards?
Side note: Sorry for prematurely publishing this blog post. I wasn't finished typing and editing; and accidentally hit the publish button.