expired parking meterPhoto by Shutterstock.

There’s a wonky academic theory that if you raise parking meter prices enough, eventually, there will always be one parking spot free on every block. It’s like park-topia, a place that glistens in the near future of urban planners’ imaginations. Well, San Francisco is trying it, and the prices are getting higher and higher without a “sweet spot” for some hot blocks. In some areas, you can now expect to pay as much as $5.25 an hour.

The strategy, called “dynamic pricing,” is something we’ve been keeping our eye on at Transportation Nation because, if it works, it could mean less traffic, faster (and maybe fewer) car rides into downtowns, and overall smarter transportation systems. The crux of the experiment relies on 1) real-time data about who is parking where and 2) the ability to change rates for different streets to ease congestion and spread the parking around.