A study by an urban planner at the University of California recently concluded that up to 30% of traffic congestion in central business districts of America's cities came from people looking for an open parking place. San Francisco is attempting to address this part of the traffic problem as part of its SFpark program to alleviate such congestion. A particularly imaginative part of this program is a system that will allow the city to monitor on-street parking spaces, and transmit the location of available slots to drivers via their Smartphone.
According to the New York Times, San Francisco will also experiment with networked parking meters, giving it the flexibility to shorten or extend the time allowed at a meter, or adjust the prices up or down depending on use. The next logical step, I'd think, for towns scraping for funding is to hold real-time auctions for available spaces. If you think cell phone talkers are inattentive drivers, imagine drivers involved in a bidding war for that last spot in front of the office.
Although in New York over a quarter of vehicle traffic is thought to consist of cars circling the block, similar imaginative steps have not yet made it to the implementation stage there. With the growing public distaste for Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, similar to one imposed in London several years ago, look for the San Francisco tests, if successful, to gain support in the Big Apple.