SFPark – The iPhone App for Smart Parking in San Francisco

By: Kate Maeder
Looking for parking in the city? There’s an iPhone app for that!

SFPark - San Francisco's iPhone app to find parkingThe world is watching today as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announces an iPhone app to help you find parking in the city.

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It’s called SFPark – and it supposedly “helps you park smarter in San Francisco” so you’re circling less and parking more. The app gives you real-time availability and prices for parking on the streets and garages in SOMA, Marina District, Embarcadero, Financial District, Fisherman's Wharf, Mission District and Hayes Valley.

How does the SFPark App Work?

The 2-year, $20 million pilot program uses wireless sensors in the pavement and new parking meters to deliver real-time data. This data feed is even free to third party developers. The SFPark iPhone app claims to be roughly 90% accurate and takes 60 seconds for the data to travel from the street sensor to the palm of your hand. Learn more about how the SFPark app works here.

If It Works – A Great Start for Government 2.0

SF Park - San Francisco's iPhone App for Finding ParkingThe app could be a really great start for the open data and government 2.0 movement – but it’s just a start and it has to prove that it works first. The SF MUNI is pretty good at having press conferences. What they have not been particularly good at is following through after the cameras are turned off. The parking app clearly still has some technical flaws. My app switches to “very light weight view” for no apparent reason. This is the alert I keep getting on my app as it fails to deliver the real-time data. I can still check out the parking garage information – helpful, I guess.

I would hope that city officials would make the big announcement when the app actually worked… but hopefully this $20 million project gets working and gets the city to stop circling and to start parking.

Check out the website here – http://sfpark.org – and you can download it right here from the iTunes store.

Kate Maeder's picture

SFPark App - Video Review

Check out this video with me and Bernadette Samson as we review the SFPark App, where you can get real-time parking data right to your phone!

Juan Carlos Sanchez's picture

SFPark App - Smarter parking in San Francisco for who?

First of all, I think its great that San Francisco has taken this giant step forward. And, like the first generation of any technology, this smart phone app will have its problems. But I am confident that those issues, in time, will be addressed. However, as a San Francisco car owner who mostly gets around on MUNI - this application is not all that helpful as I'm usually circling around my neighborhood for a non-metered parking spot. I've already paid $80 for the privilege to park on the street (a task that takes about 30 minutes) and I'm not about to cough up more money to park my car overnight...the reason why I'm usually hunting for a parking spot. I know I'll enjoy this new parking application during the occasional Saturday night outing but, for the most part, this technology will mostly benefit out of towners - assuming they even know the application exists.
Bernadette's picture

SFPark App Pros and Cons + MUNI Perspectives

One qualm I have about this program is the changing parking rate depending on high versus low demand. It's great to have spots that will be cheaper than current prices due to low demand. However, the prospect of $18/hour spots in very high demand locations is a little unnerving. Then again, it is economics...

Also we have to consider the reasons for the high-demand parking locations and also low-demand parking locations.

There is the obvious "The high-demand parking locations are convenient places near popular stores, restaurants, and businesses."

However, there is also the "That spot is where a lot of homeless people hang out, so I don't want to park my car where there are high burglary rates" reason, too!

Maybe we can use this data and interview drivers to find out why they are not parking in the low-demand places. From there, we can then fix the problems preventing drivers from parking in those spaces.

Of course, as EricJaye mentioned, we do need to see this app work first before going beyond.

Eric Jaye's picture

SF Ex takes it for a test drive

San Francisco Examiner reporters got out of the office yesterday to test how the new San Francisco parking application is working. First answer - not always that well. 



Eric Jaye's picture

And more details

Here's the spin from the MTA:


Real-time Parking Availability and Pricing Information Now Available via SFpark.org, SFpark iPhone App and Open Data Stream

San Francisco, CA Mayor Edwin M. Lee today joined the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to announce the launch of real-time parking data for SFpark. This federally funded pilot project run by the SFMTA uses new smart parking management technologies and pricing policies to make it easier and faster to park in San Francisco. Better management of parking will open San Francisco’s streets and result in cleaner air, improved safety and faster Muni times. 

“Cities around the world are combating parking and traffic congestion problems,” said Mayor Lee. “With SFpark, San Francisco is the first city in the world to pursue a comprehensive parking-based approach to congestion management and greenhouse gas emission reduction that will also support local merchants and keep San Francisco moving.” 

“This innovative project will reduce circling and double-parking, help make Muni faster and more reliable, reduce congestion, and create safer streets for everyone,” said SFMTA Executive Director/CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “The parking information on the app, the website, and the real time information signs will allow SFpark to also make it easier to park and drive in San Francisco.” 

As of today, SFpark real-time parking availability and pricing information is available via SFpark.org, the SFpark app for the iPhone and an open data stream for outside app developers. The SFMTA has conducted outreach with the app developer community to help ensure broad awareness of this new data feed and has created a section of the SFpark.org web site to make it easy for developers to access and understand this data stream. These tools will help people decide where and when to drive, directing them to blocks and garages with open parking spaces. 

The SFpark web site provides customers the ability to see parking availability and cost before heading out the door. The mapping tool on the home page shows location, high, low or medium availability and rate information for SFpark garages and on-street parking spaces. The SFpark iPhone app uses the same data feed to provide a great mobile option. By providing a real-time data feed to the public, application developers and companies, such as Google and in-vehicle navigation systems, can also distribute this data to drivers. 

Later this year, the real-time parking data will also be made available via the region’s 511 system, and the SFMTA will make parking availability information for parking garages available via a text message service as well as 12 changeable electronic variable message signs. SFpark will also add, over the next several weeks, the remaining SFpark garages to the real-time data for the web site and apps. Currently, two of the SFpark garages, Lombard and Moscone, have data in the real-time feed. 

The first demand-based rate change at City SFpark on-street automobile parking spaces will be implemented over the coming months and will continue at SFpark garages and on-street motorcycle parking spaces. The SFMTA will adjust rates based on demand to find the lowest hourly rate possible in each pilot area to achieve the right level of parking availability to make parking easier. Rates will be adjusted no more than once a month and only in small increments of no more than $0.50 per hour. The goal of these pricing adjustments is to have at least one open parking space on every block at most times and parking garages that rarely fill up. 

Other elements of this program already in place or currently being implemented include: 
•        New single- and multi-space meters that accept credit cards as well as coins and SFMTA parking cards 
•        Longer parking time limits of four hours or no limit in some areas 
•        Facility upgrades at City-owned garages 
•        Pay-by-Phone convenience at SFpark and regular City and Port meters 

The SFpark pilot covers 7,000 of San Francisco’s 28,800 metered spaces and 12,250 spaces in 15 of 20 SFMTA-managed parking garages. These garages and spaces are located in the following neighborhoods: Civic Center, Hayes Valley, the Financial District, SoMa, the Mission, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Fillmore and the Marina. The SFpark pilot is 80 percent funded by the United States Department of Transportation’s Urban Partnership Program and will run until summer 2012.

Eric Jaye's picture

MUNI and Technology

If this works it would be a step forward (although that's a big if knowing MUNI). But it would be much more productive to fix the technology that runs the streetcars and busses before we go deeper into car parking tech.

(And it would much, much better to fix the Clipper Card disaster first).

Interesting discussion at the Solutions event last Saturday about the technology disaster that is the MUNI train control system. 

Saw what they were talking about in a classic commute last night. While waiting for a J Church watched as numerous N-Judah cars went by. The poor folks who missed those cars had to certainly wait a long, long time to get home since the simple technology that would allow proper headway on the MUNI lines is not employed.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137