San Francisco could be first in U.S. for parking meter surge-pricing

San Francisco is poised to become the first U.S. city to have citywide surge pricing for parking meters, under a plan being considered by the Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Similar to how Uber charges more on weekend nights and New Year’s Eve, each of the city’s 30,200 meters would be subject to hourly rates that vary depending on demand. The charges would go up and down, depending on neighborhood and time of day.

For example, parking in the packed Pacific Heights during dinner would cost more than parking in the outer Richmond – an area with fewer restaurants – under the proposal.

MTA officials told the Chronicle that this the approach is intended to increase the availability of coveted city parking spaces, particularly in areas where demand is high. People unwilling to pay the higher rates might seek parking farther away, remain for a shorter period of time, or leave their car at home.

Surge-pricing is already underway at about 7,000 of the city’s metered parking spaces, as well as in all of its garages.

Rates can go as low as 50 cents an hour or as high as $8 an hour, according to MTA policy, but the highest rate now is $7 an hour, charged near AT&T Park during Giants games and other events, the Chronicle reported.

The average rate at the existing 7,000 demand-based parking spaces is about $2.50, MTA parking policy manager Hank Willson told the Chronicle. Since the city started experimenting with the concept, he said, many parking rates have dropped. Of course, that depends on the location and the time of day.

Mark Rudnicki of San Francisco told KTVU on Thursday that he’s not sure the plan will work. “Parking is ridiculous already,” he said. “I don’t think surge-pricing will work.” 

The MTA board of directors is scheduled to vote on the plan on Tuesday.