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Bringing the SFMTA’s Parking Garages Into the 21st Century

by
Friday, June 3, 2016

City-owned parking garages throughout San Francisco are about to receive a long-awaited system revamp.

This month the SFMTA will begin a major overhaul to replace outdated parking garage equipment with state-of-the-art technology in 22 city-owned parking facilities.

The new Parking Access and Revenue Control System, or PARCS, will replace 16-year-old hardware and software with cutting edge parking industry technology that is completely scalable, allowing room for parking management and technology growth.

A view of Polk Street near Bush Street, across the street from the Polk Bush parking garage.
The Polk-Bush garage will be the first parking facility to install the new PARCS equipment.

Parking revenue accounts for a large portion of our agency’s operating budget, bringing in $47 million in net revenue last year in funding for transit and other needs.

The $20 million garage upgrade was approved by the SFMTA Board of Directors on April 19 and received the go-ahead from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on April 26. Rolling installation is expected to take three years.

The new software and hardware address a number of common parking garage management issues and will improve operations, making parking easier and more efficient for customers at each of the city-owned parking garages or lots. 

Though transportation infrastructure improvements are often associated with things like rail replacement, streetscape redesign or construction of boarding islands and bulb-outs, the new cloud-based parking system will further encourage use of city parking facilities by allowing customers to enter and exit them quickly and more easily.

For example, customers using the new system will be able to pay their parking fees prior to entering their vehicle in all 22 SFMTA garages. Currently, only about half of city-owned garages allow for pre-payment. Pre-payment eliminates the transaction process as customers’ exit, preventing long queues from forming during peak times like rush hour.

The system also reduces fraud and handles cases of missing or lost tickets — a common issue in long-term parking lots. The new parking system will address lost tickets with a license plate recognition system. Upon entry, the system will record the license plate number and associate it with the ticket number. When the car exits the lot, the ticket number will be linked to the license plate number, thus verifying that the ticket is indeed the same as the one issued. If someone has lost their ticket, the duration of their parking can be determined from the license plate.

The new system also will allow for improved auditing and credit card security. This includes expanding the types of payment, like “chip-enabled” credit or debit cards. This technology will enhance the security of credit card processing at city garages, providing greater fraud protection for both parking customers and the city.

The new system’s high-tech advances also support increased pedestrian safety and San Francisco’s Vision Zero traffic safety policy. Garages in busy pedestrian neighborhoods will be equipped with a flashing light and an audible alarm when vehicles exit.

The system’s real-time data collection and centralized monitoring functions will enable the agency’s parking team to design and embark upon a multitude of initiatives, including dynamic pricing, universal validations and other programs focused on encouraging transit-first initiatives to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

The Parking Access and Revenue Control System is ushering in a new era in parking management for San Francisco, one that will make parking in SF more seamless and inviting.