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Santa Monica to Roll Out "Smart" Parking Meters in 2012  

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By Melonie Magruder
Lookout Staff

October 26, 2011 -- For those who have been confronted with yet another broken parking meter, or a $50 parking fine after losing track of that extra 15 minutes, City Council considered an entirely new parking meter system Tuesday night.

City staff recommended the awarding of a contract to replace all 6,100 city parking meters with new “smart” meters that not only offer multiple payment options to motorists, they are installed with sensors that immediately alert maintenance staff in the event of malfunction; they can be programmed remotely to reflect changing fees; and they are solar-powered, eliminating the need of disposing 8,000 AA batteries annually.

The new meter program was bid by IPS Group, Inc, a San Diego-based company, at a cost of $4,500,000 for purchase and installation – about $740 each – with an additional yearly maintenance fee not to exceed $612,000, or about $100 per meter.

Don Patterson, Santa Monica’s assistant director of finance, said that the city tested 75 of the new meters between January and June of this year, deploying the single-space devices in high demand areas around Ocean Avenue, Arizona Avenue and Main Street.

“Those meters gave us ten to 15 percent higher revenue than the old meters, without a rate increase,” Patterson told The Lookout Tuesday. “And with the convenience of multiple option payment, parking is going to be a lot easier in Santa Monica.”

Meter hours can be paid for by coin, credit card, a Santa MoniCard, through a new smart phone app or a new pay-by-phone option. So, you can add to your meter minutes remotely (but must still observe posted limitations per visit).

The cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood have all successfully deployed such meters on their streets.

Patterson said that the new meters instantly notify maintenance staff when they have been disabled and they indicate how much money they are carrying in coin.

He said they will yield higher revenue with a credit card payment option. Credit card payments accounted for more than 30 percent of the revenue in the demonstration area.

In addition to providing credit card and pay-by-phone functionality, the meters will produce dynamic real-time usage and revenue reports. The recommended meters will also allow staff to reconcile actual coins collected with meter route revenue reports, increasing financial controls.

“It just means better reporting, accountability and reconciliation,” Patterson said.

Parking meters typically provide the city $7.1 million in revenue each year. With the extra efficiency, city staff anticipates an additional $1.7 million after installation is complete, estimated to be June of next year.

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