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Finding a parking space can be frustrating and time-consuming. It’s estimated close to a third of city traffic is caused by drivers circling while looking for a space. Some drivers just give up and double park. This clogs our streets and needlessly pollutes the air. These cars slow down public transit and get in the way of emergency vehicles. And drivers focused on finding parking create a hazard for pedestrians and cyclists.

There is a better way. San Francisco is testing new parking technology and a flexible approach to pricing that is designed to make parking work better for everyone. SFpark‘s goal is to have at least one parking space available per block. That way, drivers can park near a specific destination without the need to circle the block or double-park. This also provides a steadier flow of customers for business owners. SFpark provides safer and clearer streets for everyone.

Here’s how it works. Newly installed parking sensors detect when a parking space is available. Drivers will be able to check parking availability and rates online, by text message and by smart phone before heading to their destination. This will help people decide whether to drive, take public transit, bike or walk.

When people choose to drive, new SFpark meters will make paying easier. In addition to taking coins, the new meters will accept credit cards and SFMTA parking cards. Parking time limits will be extended. Easier payment and extended time limits will help drivers avoid tickets. Prices at city-owned parking garages will be adjusted to provide an attractive alternative to meter parking.

Parking rates will be adjusted based on demand, once a month, never by more than fifty cents. So, in areas where it seems nearly impossible to find a parking space, rates will increase until at least one space is available most of the time. And in areas where open parking spaces are plentiful, rates will decrease until most of the empty spaces fill or until rates bottom out at as little as 25 cents per hour. SFpark is designed to ensure that drivers easily find an open space near their destination.

SFpark will help people plan ahead, making informed decisions about the best time and best way to visit busy areas. SFpark begins its federally funded pilot project in eight areas across San Francisco starting in the summer of 2010. Use to learn more, sign up for project alerts and to let us know what you think. Circle less. Live more.