Disabled, SFpark and PIE 2014


Disabled, SFpark and PIE 2014

This is really strange — I don’t know if City Council members in Portland, OR, are just trying to be PC or really don’t understand the problem, but in the reporting about this event, they talk at length about how they are going to begin charging folks who park in disabled spaces. Fair enough.
But not once in the newspaper article (“Disabled pass won’t equal free parking in Portland anymore,” The Oregonian, Dec. 18) or seemingly in the discussions, is the problem of placard abuse mentioned. 
If you have a “wheelchair disabled” placard, parking still will be free, but all the other disabled parkers will have to pay. The article did acknowledge that on a given day, more than 1,000 spaces in downtown Portland were occupied with disabled permits, but only 21 were wheelchair permits.
The article goes on and on about the amount of revenue that will be raised, but says nothing about giving disabled access that is denied due to placard abuse. There are more than 90,000 handicapped placards issued in the Portland area, 2,000 of which are for those disabled parkers requiring use of wheelchairs.  I wonder how that number will change when the new law goes into effect.
The only reasonable way to stop placard abuse is to charge for parking. Disabled people tell me they don’t want “free” parking; they want and need access. 
Let’s remember to follow up on Portland in a year or so and find out how many disabled placards are on file.

The following letter is circulating from the SFMTA, the Parent of SFpark. I print it here in its entirety:
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the agency that manages transportation in the city, established the SFpark pilot, using new technology and policies to improve parking in San Francisco. The pilot aims to reduce traffic by helping drivers find parking spaces more quickly. More parking availability makes streets less congested and safer. Improved parking meters that accept credit and debit cards and phone payment reduce frustration and parking citations.
The SFMTA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are both now preparing to evaluate the pilot using data collected during the pilot project. As the pilot phase comes to a close in 2014, the project will continue to operate, and any major changes will be considered after evaluation is completed in spring 2014. In the meantime, there will be some changes to the SFpark mobile app and the data feed that some other private parking mobile apps also use.
As of January 1st, 2014, the parking sensors in the street will be turned off, and their data feed will no longer be available [because] parking sensor batteries have reached the end of their useful lives. This means that the real-time information on parking space occupancy will not be available for mobile apps and similar uses.
The SFpark data feed and app will continue to show meter parking rates, as well as real-time space availability and rates at parking garages. The SFMTA will continue to conduct demand-responsive rate changes to find the lowest rates possible
to help ensure [that] there is a minimum number of open parking spaces on each block to reduce circling and double-parking. …
It was my understanding that the sensors were an integral part of the entire SFpark system. That is, the goal of showing drivers, through their smartphones, where available on-street parking is located, was important, and the data that the sensors collected were an integral part of the ability of the city to adjust parking rates based on the Shoup model.
All of this was to reduce the number of vehicles cruising for parking spaces, thus saving the planet from CO2, and as an adjunct, at least pay for itself.
We have known for some months that the agreement with the vendor that supplied the sensors was coming to an end. That has now come true.
One parking industry wag observed:
The very issue I labor is the absence of a commercial rationale to support what is a considerable investment (somewhere north of $25 million). If the investment isn’t saving time, saving money or making money, it’s not an investment. This “boloney” around saving commuting time and CO2 is nebulous at best.
My guess is that after the beginning of the new year, we will never see a report on the viability of the system and that SFpark will go silently into that dark night.
After all, who wants to be the one to sign a report that a system was installed for a huge amount of money, and then the major part of the system – parking guidance and the ability to adjust rates using technology – was simply turned off because it was what – Too expensive? Didn’t really work? The data were unavailable? The batteries were dead? 
Or as the head of SFpark once said, that “the technology was challenging”?
Is it really?  Many cities around the country, and the world, use the technology in various forms to good success. Why not San Francisco?
As I write this at the new year’s eve, our Parking Industry Exhibition 2014 is taking its final form. Eric, Carol, Joyce, Kelley, and Marilyn are working feverishly to make it the best ever. I commend our website to you as the very latest speakers, presentations and exhibitors are listed. Plus, you can register online.
I look forward to seeing you in Chicago next month at PIE 2014. We are going to have a wonderful and rewarding time.

John Van Horn is founder and editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com.

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