SFpark Project Proves Smart Parking System Efficiency

Technology development on one hand and increasing traffic problems on the other, lead to a situation where authorities are more willing to invest in Smart Parking Systems (SPS). Example of San Francisco proves that SPS are effective for fighting both - traffic jams and virtual parking deficiency problem.

SFpark Project Proves Smart Parking System Efficiency
Sixteen studies of cruising behavior were conducted between 1927 and 2001 in the central business districts of eleven cities on four continents. The percentage of cars in the traffic flow that were cruising for parking varied between 8 up to 74%, which gives an average of 30%.

According to a survey organized by Parkatmyhouse.com average time of cruising for free parking space in UK is 6 min and 45 s. However, in large cities (Bristol, Manchester) it increases to 13-16 min up to over 20 min in London.

Although it’s hard to believe, it was calculated that an average British driver during his lifetime spends 2549 hours (or 106 days) looking for an available parking place.

But cruising for parking space generates not only significant loss of time and stress among drivers. A study of Westwood Village, a commercial district in Los Angeles, indicates that drivers looking for a parking possibility each year needlessly cover there 1 500 000 km. It means that 178 000 l of gasoline are wasted and 730 tons of CO2 emission are produced. And it’s just one city district.

However, the problem with cruising for parking is not as much a result of too few parking spaces as of a highly inefficient parking management. To improve it, besides introducing pro bicycle policies or encouraging public transport usage, local authorities have a quite new but increasingly significant tool – Smart Parking Systems (or SPS).

There are various types of SPS, depending on used technology, but generally we can describe them as systems consisting of (1) sensors, usually installed in each parking space, (2) hubs communicating with those sensors, installed on nearby buildings, posts etc. and (3) additional features, such as LED screens displaying number of free parking spaces in each street block, and/or mobile app enabling payment for and navigation to free parking space.

No matter the provider or technology used one thing stays the same – the essence of SPS is to provide real-time information about available parking spaces as well as resulting from it additional services that may enhance driver’s experience.

One of the most interesting and renowned examples of advantages provided by SPS is a case study of SFpark. SFpark was a pilot program realized in San Francisco between 2009-2013. The goal of the program was to investigate if and how SPS can improve drivers’ experience, reduce traffic, optimize usage of all available parking spaces, as well as shape parking costs policy. SFpark was based on a technology of American company Streetline. It uses magnetometer sensors which are installed in surface of each parking space. Sensors have a few years lifespan and wirelessly communicate with radio receptors installed on nearby poles or lamp-posts.

The system was integrated with parking meters as well as a mobile app with in-app payment system. Also, in order to more evenly distribute cars between different parking spots, SFpark’s implemented ‘fluid’ parking prices. The price in given parking was correlated with real-time parking space demand in this area - the higher the demand, the higher the prices, so as to make drivers choose other, less occupied (and cheaper) parking.


Thursday, November 27th 2014

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