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Interlude: Automated Parking Space Tracking

Like any real sports journalist, I've now had to throw out my Detroit Red Wings eulogy two games in a row. So let's look at something completely different...

If you've ever driven in San Francisco (or any other dense major city), you've certainly been through the pain of finding a parking space. A few weeks ago, San Francisco introduced sfpark, which detects parked cars at parking meters in several neighborhoods and adjusts meter rates as overall occupancy changes. That information is out there for various iphone parking space finder apps, and I can also track it by the minute. First, space inventory:


There are more spaces available at night because loading zones revert to actual parking spaces and temporary 'no parking' signs go away. The fewest spots are available in the middle of the night during tow-away street cleaning.

Now, for space occupancy:


Nothing earth-shattering here - the Mission is a residential and service-oriented neighborhood, so spaces fill up slowly throughout the morning and stay occupied throughout the afternoon. Free parking starts at 6 pm and people start taking parking spaces as they get back from work starting around 4:30 pm. Occupied parking hits its peak very quickly after the meters turn free and stays there until 8 or 9 pm.

And here we can see Tuesday's data overlaid with Monday's:


We likely will see the same pattern Monday through Thursday - perhaps with a slightly later peak on Thursday - and then a late-night peak on Friday and on the weekend. There's very little Sunday street sweeping, so we'll see flatter occupancy then.

Oh, and just to bury the lede - how does that vaunted demand-based parking rate system work? How about not at all. Between 9 am and 6 pm, it cost $2 per hour to park at each and every meter, exactly what it cost before the program started. Is it possible that the system isn't running yet?