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Transportation News

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters Participates in First Demonstration of New Anti-Congestion Parking Technology

Above (left to right): Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., Executive Director, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters and MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger toured the SFgo command center.

Above (left to right): Caltrans District 4 Director and MTC Commissioner Bijan Sartipi, Peters, Heminger

Photos by Noah Berger

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2007… During a visit to San Francisco today, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters got a first-hand look at prototypes of new high-tech parking meters coming soon to sidewalks in neighborhoods where the competition for parking is among the toughest in the city. San Francisco's "Smart Parking" initiative, which combines the new meters with sensors embedded in the pavement of parking spaces, will allow motorists to search select blocks for available parking spaces via PDAs or the Internet. Parking rates will vary according to demand and motorists will be able to pay with cash, credit cards, smart cards such as the TransLink® regional transit-fare card sponsored by MTC, or even via a text message from a cell phone. Flanked by local officials such as MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Executive Director Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr. and San Francisco County Transportation Authority Executive Director Jose Luis Moscovich, Secretary Peters lauded the Smart Parking plan as a model for other cities to apply 21st Century technologies to combat congestion and reduce air pollution caused by vehicles circling city blocks in the quest for parking. Smart Parking, along with San Francisco's SFgo real-time traffic management and operations, and a proposal to implement variable-rate tolling on Doyle Drive, are among the cornerstones of the San Francisco Bay Area Accelerate proposal rewarded earlier this summer by the Department of Transportation with a $158.7 million grant through the DOT's Urban Partnership Program.


Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, San Francisco, CA
October 16, 2007

Good morning. I am glad to be here with my good friend and Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Steve Heminger, and Municipal Transportation Authority Executive Director Nat Ford. And I would like to thank Mayor Newsom and his staff for their support here today.

As you know, in August, the Department of Transportation awarded $158.7 million through our Urban Partnership competition to help the Bay Area implement a comprehensive traffic-fighting plan, known as San Francisco’s Bay Area Accelerate. And a key part of that plan is to rethink our policies on how we charge for parking.

Meter technology has remained unchanged since the 1920s, when vehicle travel was a relatively new activity in American life. Back then, the early parking meter concept was not too much different from “parking” during the turn of the last century, when travelers would tie up at a hitching post and throw a coin to the stable hand.

But, today, I am here to announce that these old meters are about to become traffic fighting machines. These meters will charge drivers different prices to park – more during peak times, less during off peak – so we can keep traffic flowing and guaranteed parking will be available. Frustration ebbs and traffic flows.

And because of the technology, drivers soon will be able to find a parking spot while surfing the web, or lock in on a place to park from miles away using PDA devices. These meters will make it easier to find a parking space than it is to find a cup of coffee.

This new technology is coming soon to busy, traffic-clogged San Francisco. And it is not just for convenience. Everyone has felt the frustration of being stuck behind the driver who is slowly trolling the streets scanning for any potential spot that may pop open – wasting not only their time and fuel, but yours as well.

In fact, according to a 2006 citywide survey, over half of all drivers take more than five minutes to find parking. That means, for every 10 cars aimlessly looking for a parking spot, at least one gallon of gas is being wasted. Imagine the gas we could save if drivers could just find a spot!

No quarters? No problem. Drivers will be able to pay with their credit and debit cards, and their Smart Trip Cards. They will even be able to text in a payment using their cell phones.

These meters will make parking more convenient, reduce auto emissions, and ease traffic jams.

This is not the only impressive initiative happening here in the Bay Area. I just received an in-depth briefing on how traffic signals are being equipped with new technology so they can more efficiently move transit buses through the city streets.

And, as soon as authority is given, Doyle Drive will be priced based on congestion to make commutes more reliable for the people in San Francisco.

We believe that the solution to today’s traffic problems do not have to be just about building new roads and infrastructure.

San Francisco’s leaders understand that this city has always led when it comes to innovation and creativity. From its iconic street cars to the engineering marvel of the Golden Gate, this city has a history of boldness in its ideas on transportation.

And the city is leading again when it comes to bringing technology to bear on today’s traffic gridlock. It makes sense that a region that helped popularize internet cafes is now bringing us internet parking, timed traffic lights and adjustable rate roads.

Americans are looking for these types of transportation solutions. I believe we will look back at San Francisco’s congestion relief plan as a turn in the right direction.