SEATTLE -- Instead circling the block in Belltown or hunting for a spot on Capitol Hill, what if parking was as simple as looking at your cell phone? In San Francisco that is what thousands of drivers are doing thanks to new parking technology the city is testing. San Francisco recently unveiled it, and Seattle is watching closely to see how this testing phase goes.
San Francisco rolled out the "SFPark" cellphone application as a way to cut down on congestion. The city says drivers looking for a parking spot make up about a third of traffic tie-ups. The $20 million parking project also includes a plan to raise parking prices based on demand. Sensors embedded in the street and city garages alert drivers within a minute when a space opens up.
"Sounds great, but then you'll be looking at your cell phone while your driving, so that probably wouldn't be so good," said Seattle driver, Steve Morrison.
The city of San Francisco is telling drivers to pull over and use the parking app, or have a passenger use it for you.
Seattle's Department of Transportation will study parking, including San Francisco's new cellphone app and variable pricing, this Summer. In the Fall, SDOT will deliver a report to the Mayor and City Council.
"Definitely we will look to San Francisco to see what they've learned, and what their best practices are. It could help us create that kind of program here in Seattle," said SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan.
SDOT is planning now for the parking hassles ahead. When the Alaskan Way Viaduct project is complete in a few years, the city will lose 800 parking spots. Already the city has E-Park which involves electronic boards displayed above six privately owned garages in Seattle. The signs alert drivers to how many parking spaces are available. The $5.5 million project has two phases. The first phase involved getting the E-Park signs up in Seattle's downtown retail core and Pike Place Market. The next phase will happen over the next couple years, expanding E-Park into Pioneer Square and the Central Waterfront area.