San Francisco is the First City in the U.S. to Count Its Parking Spaces
Photo: Flickr, CC
"In San Francisco, housing is expensive for people but free for most cars."
It might come as a surprise to some, but pretty much all cities in the U.S. (and the world) have only a vague idea of how many parking spaces (public and private) they have. But now there's a sizeable exception: San Francisco spent the past 18 months counting its parking spaces. Total: 441,541 spaces. Over 280,000 on streets, 25,000 of which are metered. With this information, decisions about removing or adding parkings can be made in an informed manner, and be part of a bigger-picture plan.
Photo: Flickr, CC
"You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure"
This kind of data can allow the city's planners to better match offer with demand. If parking is too cheap, all of it will be used and cars will circle endlessly looking for a spot, wasting time, money, and polluting pointlessly.
But if parking is priced properly, a few empty parking spots should be found on each block most of the time, saving time and energy for those who have to be there, and discouraging others who could have used an alternative to the automobile to get there.
This will also help urban planners make decisions about which parkings are truly useful and which would be more useful if they were turned into a bike lane or a bus lane. It's a lot easier to argue for these when you have the facts.
Here's a great quote from Don Shoup, planning professor at UCLA and author of The High Cost of Free Parking:
"One surprising result is that 72 percent of all the publicly-available parking spaces in the city are free. In San Francisco, housing is expensive for people but free for most cars."
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