On NPR today, I heard about a San Francisco initiative, slated to roll out in pilot form this fall, to make it easier to find a parking space in the city and to mitigate traffic flow problems caused by people circling endlessly. From what they described, there were three main aspects of the program:
Small sensors in every parking space can tell you, via mobile phone, where there are free parking spaces. (Cue the mad rush of five cars to the one just-vacated space.)
Meters can be paid by phone (and I assume by other means as well), and can be topped up remotely. (Of course, the meter monitors will also know exactly when your meter expires and can greatly increase their ticket-giving efficiency.)
And the price of the meter can change to match demand. The commentator mentioned that in another city that has been trying this, parking spots went up to $18/hour next to a stadium during game-time.
I'm very interested to see what happens with this as a social experiment. Will it facilitate better flow of cars (and buses -- yay bus efficiency!)? Will it reduce the number of people driving to the city? Will it be the parking equivalent of so-called "Lexus Lanes"? I am a bit worried about the seeming reliance on mobile phones for the project, and about the usual problem of lower-income people being hit harder by increased meter costs, and about the proclivity for sensors to fail (how much redundancy will there be?), but perhaps these concerns are already being addressed -- it's hard to tell from a five-minute NPR slot. :~) I look forward to learning more about it, though the name of the program, "Park SF," doesn't seem to bring up anything relevant in searches yet.
In other news, I type this with two kittens in my lap. And ... I should get back to work.