Although the jury is apparently still out on the success or failure of Seattle's demand-based on-street parking strategy (the city charges more where and when demand is higher, and lowers prices in places and at times when fewer people want to park), another city, San Francisco, is finding that its own demand-based pricing---aimed at leaving one or two spaces open per block---is getting results.

Last year, the city revamped parking rates in several neighborhoods---increasing rates in some neighborhoods, decreasing them in others, and, in some cases, changing the hours parking meter rates are in effect.

The changes have been controversial, to say the least; most recently, a group of International District/Chinatown restaurants complained that new, later parking hours (paid parking now lasts until 8 pm, instead of 6 pm) were destroying their businesses, prompting a lengthy back-and-forth between paid-parking proponents and opponents over whose data were more accurate.

Back to San Fransisco, where parking spaces can cost as much as $4.50 an hour (and may soon go up to $6 an hour). According to an analysis of parking space utilization in that city by the New York Times, "While only a third of the blocks in the program have hit their targeted occupancy rates in any given month since the program began, the analysis found, three-quarters of the blocks either hit their targets or moved closer to the goal. The program has been a bit more successful on weekdays.

"Of course, price is only one factor that influences behavior. About a fifth of the time prices rose but more spaces filled up, or prices fell but fewer people parked. And the full effects of the phased-in price changes have yet to be felt, because the most expensive spots cannot hit the $6-an-hour maximum until next year at the earliest."

The idea of dynamic meter rates comes from UCLA urban planning professor Douglas Shoup, who argues that the ideal price for curbside parking is "the lowest price a city can charge and still have one or two vacant spaces available on every block."

One important difference between San Fransisco and Seattle is that all of San Francisco's on-street parking revenues are dedicated to transit; in Seattle, parking revenues go into the general fund for general transportation purposes.
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