Parking in Santa Monica just got a little unfriendlier.
Starting Monday, the city will be installing ground sensors and new meters at all of its more than 6,000 metered parking spaces so that they will no longer accept payment after the indicated time limit, which means drivers will no longer be able to run back and "feed" the meter to stay parked over the allotted time limit.
The new parking meters will allow customers to pay by credit card, phone or coins and will send text messages to alert when a time limit is about to expire. The city began installing the new meters and sensors as a part of a pilot program in March 2011.
Additionally, the meters will automatically reset to zero whenever a car leaves the space, which means Santa Monica drivers will no longer have the good fortune to happen upon a space that still has some time left on the meter.
The changes are intended to improve parking availability and the customer experience, Don Patterson, assistant director of finance for the city, told The Huffington Post. Data collected from the sensors will eventually lead to a parking map that indicates in real-time where there are available parking meters in the city.
Currently, feeding the meter beyond the posted time limit is subject to a $64 citation and is monitored by traffic services officers who mark the tires of cars with chalk. The new technology will make enforcement more efficient, and the citation fine will remain the same.
The city expects an increase in revenues from citations of $1.7 million for the first year of implementation. This is because, Patterson said, customers who pay with credit card tend to pay the full amount (which will zero out after the driver leaves the space), which is not true of customers who pay with coins. The city does not expect the number of citations to change significantly as a result of the new technology, Patterson said.
Santa Monica's website already provides a real-time map (viewable on mobile phones) of all of the parking structures and some of the parking lots in the city. The maps color each lot as green (to indicate 50+ spaces available), yellow (10+ spaces available) or red (10- spaces available), and, by hovering over each lot, visitors can see hours, rates and exactly how many spots are currently available.
The city plans to use the new parking meter sensors to add parking meter availability, using the color-coded system by block, to its online real-time maps.