Place “smart” in front of a noun and you immediately have something that somehow sounds improved.
In its current state, however, “smart parking” is in some ways little different from regular parking. The term refers to a beguiling technology, now being tested in several cities, that uses sensors to determine whether a particular spot on the street or in a parking garage is occupied or vacant. When a car has overstayed its allotted time, the technology can also send the information to a parking enforcement officer with ticket book in hand.
The sensors’ data can also be used to adjust parking prices, using higher rates to create more turnover on the busiest blocks and lower prices to draw drivers to blocks with underused spaces…
If you’re changing prices every other day, how will drivers know where to look?
Cities are marketing the programs as experiments in using demand-based pricing to reduce traffic congestion — the kind caused by circling drivers desperately seeking parking spots — and to make more spaces available at any specific time. Drivers are encouraged to use mobile apps to check parking availability and pricing, though coverage is not universal. Parker, for example, from Streetline, gives detailed information about on-street parking for Los Angeles, but not for San Francisco.
SFpark is using “smart pricing” to achieve a target of having one parking space available most of the time in the areas it covers, says Jay Primus, the SFpark program manager. SFpark, he says, “de-emphasizes inconvenient time limits and instead uses smart pricing” to achieve those targets. The same spot, for example, may have different parking rates for different times of day. That intraday pricing is adjusted at multimonth intervals, but theoretically, it could be altered on the fly, depending on availability at any given hour.
All of which requires at least a smartphone or a motor vehicle newer than 99% of what’s on the road.
As for parking enforcement, San Francisco and Los Angeles have begun to use the sensor technology to dispatch officers to cars that have stayed past their limits. That’s far more efficient that having officers roam streets in search of random meter violations.
And that’s how this will all be paid for.