BMW Seeks to Ease Parking Crunch in San Francisco

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Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Attorney

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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San Francisco will serve as BMW’s initial U.S. market for its ParkNow Mobile Parking Service and breakthrough DriveNow program. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and BMW Group Member of the Board, Dr. Ian Roberts, made the announcement about the two services together on Aug. 20. The city is the first in the U.S. to feature the unique BMW programs.

The ParkNow system, which will be available to BMW drivers beginning in September, is an online mobile parking service that allows users to pay for parking in advance. This gives the driver guaranteed access to a spot and clearly defined rates based on their personal preferences. Customers can search for parking in San Francisco by using ParkNow’s mobile app or website to reserve, pay, and then receive navigation instructions, leading drivers directly to the parking facility. This should reduce traffic by keeping cars that would normally be driving around searching for parking off of congested city streets, and it should also reduce emissions for the same reason.

Initially, there will be 14 Park Now locations in and around San Francisco during its initial pilot phase. Stations are located around the city close to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI), and various bike-sharing stations. Other locations include the San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, and Palo Alto. ParkNow partner operators ProPark America, Towne Park, ABM Parking, and California Parking will launch more than 100 additional ParkNow locations in the coming weeks.

Another endeavor, the DriveNow program, which was launched in June, is a flexible, premium car-sharing program that offers drivers the chance to drive BWM’s first all-electric vehicle, zero-emissions, ActiveE model. The program currently offers a fleet of 70 ActiveE vehicles that are located at eight DriveNow stations in San Francisco and Palo Alto, with another in the works at the San Francisco International Airport. DriveNow stations in San Francisco are also conveniently located near BART, MUNI, and bike sharing locations. After registering for the program online or in person, customers can locate and book an available car using the DriveNow website or mobile app. Once the car has been rented, it can be returned to any DriveNow station. This gives drivers the convenience of a one-way trip, if needed.

In addition, thanks to a partnership with California-based Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint network, the largest network of independently-owned electric vehicle charging stations, DriveNow renters can easily locate a nearby charging station if they need to add a bit more juice to the car during their travels.

San Francisco was chosen as the launch point for both systems due to the city’s ongoing development and implementation of innovative approaches to urban challenges regarding traffic congestion, and the need for smarter, greener parking systems. The city estimates that there are approximately 505,000 vehicles in San Francisco, but only 448,000 parking spaces available at any given time. On weekends, the total vehicle population is estimated to increase by an additional 35,000 vehicles. An estimated one-third of all downtown traffic on weekdays is due to vehicles searching for a parking spot. Hopefully, the new initiatives will reduce some of that congestion so that everyone can drive — and ride — happier.

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