The LA Times published a story over the weekend about a pilot program that the city of Los Angeles is set to begin, involving the dynamic pricing of parking spaces. By April of next year, in a 4.5-square-mile area that is frequented by 500 000 workers and shoppers daily, the price of a parking space will be dynamically changed "based on demand at various times throughout the day and on how long motorists stay in each space."
The dynamic pricing will affect some 6000 sidewalk meters and 7500 spaces in LA public parking facilities out of the more than 49 000 spaces the city operates. The prices for the affected parking spaces currently range from US $1 to $4 an hour, and would rise or fall by no more than 50 percent. Once the program is fully operational, however, prices will be adjusted about once a month—maybe more—to reflect the demand for parking.
Last summer, LA installed new card and coin parking meters (PDF), which allow for dynamic pricing to be used if the city wants. Other cities have also installed similar smart meters and have also piloted or are considering dynamic pricing parking programs. These cities include Berkeley, San Diego (PDF), and San Francisco in California; New Haven, Connecticut; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The LA Times article notes that even though San Francisco has had dynamic pricing operating since April, it has yet to measure the benefits. The article goes on to state, "Some groups there are worried that it could be unfair to lower-income motorists." According to this presentation (PDF) by the economic consultants at the Brattle Group on the 10 myths of dynamic pricing, this is not likely to be the situation.
Although it may be true in the general case, in San Francisco, the price per hour of parking could reach as high as $18 during special events like baseball games, states this article at San Francisco's KCBS. That seems a bit steep—better hope that your baseball game doesn't go into extra innings.
One thing San Francisco has done in conjunction with its dynamic pricing of parking spaces is to create an Apple app (and one soon for the Android) to help search for open parking spaces, including their current (dynamic) price.
The San Francisco Giants (as well as some other baseball teams) already use dynamic pricing of their tickets. I wonder how the interaction of the concurrent dynamic pricing of parking and the baseball tickets in San Francisco has played out, and whether there is any consideration of increasing (or decreasing) the price of parking depending on the opponents the Giants are playing.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.