Driving around in circles trying to find a free parking space is a major cause of stress for motorists in city centres all around the world. A recent report from San Francisco, California now says drivers looking for a parking space account for 30 per cent of all traffic in some areas.

Though that figure is questionable and the data is difficult to verify, it is undeniable that the problem of car parking is affecting major cities around the world.

Two years ago, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency incorporated the SFpark pilot program, which offered parking meters that produce data to keep drivers informed about the number and location of available parking spaces. In addition, the meters accept payment via smartphones and computers.

To promote these high-tech meters, the agency had them installed in eight neighbourhoods. The data obtained from their users suggested that 30 per cent of traffic congestion in those neighbourhoods was caused by stressed drivers circling the block looking for a parking space.


With SFpark, San Francisco motorists can see real-time availability and prices for parking spaces on streets and in City garages across eight SFpark pilot areas.

While transit agency spokesman Paul Rose said the report is based on “the most comprehensive study to date that is used by the industry,” the figure is an average based on a total of only 10 studies conducted in eight cities over a period of 80 years.

“That’s too long a time frame — comparing 1920s Detroit to 2013 San Francisco is useless — and the studies included have too wide a range, from eight per cent to 74 per cent, for the 30 per cent ‘average’ to be meaningful,” opponents of SFpark said.

“The transit agency is offering 30 to 33 percent as an average, but even that seems too narrow. The real number may be impossible to figure out. You have to be able to infer people’s intentions as they drive in their cars,” said Dr. Robert Saltzman, professor of decision sciences at San Francisco State University.

Saltzman conducted a parking study in West Portal that did not offer a percentage on parking seekers.

George Street, Sydney.

George Street, Sydney.

At the moment, the transit agency is conducting its own study, and though the real number is still unknown, it is clear that ‘cruising’ causes some level of traffic, a lot of pollution and monetary loss. It also increases stress for drivers, who waste valuable time.

In Australia, the soon-to-be-launched ‘Parking App’ will notify drivers of available parking spaces on the street and help them avoid fines. The idea was inspired by an entrepreneur who’s personal driving experience and the frustration he felt on countless occasions trying to find an on-street parking space in Sydney.

The new app is designed to help drivers to find where to park by informing them which parking spaces are available in the area. After they park, it will let them know when their parking is about to expire and will even help them locate their car when parking in unfamiliar neighbourhoods and advise them on foreign parking restrictions when travelling overseas.