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Is This Your City, LA? If So, Demand Better and Smarter Parking Meters

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This blog talks a lot about riding the busses and subways and being Green, but some of us drive and aren't ashamed. Further, Los Angeles loves its car culture and it's fine time that we take pride in who we REALLY are.

As we drive our cars proudly, there comes the times when we have to park them. Last week I was shocked and amused when the writer of the busblog clued LAist readers in on the cheapest valet in Chinatown, so I will pick up the baton and implore you to write your local officials about an issue whose time has come, the modern Parking Meter.

Who among us enjoys getting parking tickets? And who out there thinks that parking tickets disuade people from parking like imbeciles? Therefore, we should require our elected officials to begin ushering out old and broken parking meters with 21st Century user-friendly meters that will send out an SMS text message when your time is about to expire.

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Don't we all want to know when our time is about to expire?

City Hall will do anything in their power to stop the modernization of parking meters because they know that they reap millions of dollars in fines from people who are a few minutes tardy and get a ticket. And the city gets even more money when people are tardy paying the tickets- how many of you have had your tickets double when you don't pay them right away?

None of those experiences stops you from parking at meters, thus the meters should be working for us, not against us. At the same time, the City should think of more ways to either be more economical with the money they generate properly, or consider new ways to raise revenues that does not go straight up against one of the things this city is known for, automobiles.

In June the cities of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills began a six-month experiment with parking meters that accept credit cards, are powered using solar panels, and will tell you on its screen all the information that the street sign should be telling you. That's a brilliant start, but it's still not good enough.

There is technology right now where a parking meter would accept your payment thru an SMS text message and then text you when your meter is about to expire. It could also be programmed to let you pay the meter again through your phone.

The last time I got a parking ticket was on Friday the 13th this April. If you recall, the 15th fell on a Sunday, so taxes weren't due until the 16th, so I went to the famous tax professional chain, and I was having my taxes done. The process took 5 minutes longer than I anticipated and the relief of having my taxes finished was instantly crushed with the sight of a ticket under my wiper blade and a tiny white car driving away.

That ticket did not teach me anything except that we need to enter into the Modern Age. Honest people doing normal business should not be routinely punished for living their lives. If I knew I was over the time limit I would have put in the nickel that was required. Why must we continue to play these ridiculous games in 2007 in modern metropolis of Los Angeles?

Look what is possible from a company in Canada-

Ticket Avoidance System #1: No watch? Or forgot what time you parked? You can have the PVM call your cell phone to warn you when time is running low. And if you can't tear yourself away from whatever (or whoever), it is you're doing to pump more change in, you can pay for the extra time right over the phone. Ticket Avoidance System #2: If you don't want to be interrupted by a call from an automated parking meter during dessert, the PVM offers a No-Fine (TM) feature that automatically pays in timed increments with your credit card. So you can enjoy that after-dinner drink without rushing out to beat a ticket.

Ticket Avoidance System #3: This one involves the generosity of the city. (I know, I'm laughing too.) If you don't opt for TAS #1 or #2, and your meter does expire, the Grace Period feature allows you, for a pre-programmed amount of time, to pay for the extra time you went over, instead of getting a ticket.

And if freeing tax-paying citizens from the hassle and embarrassment of dealing with tickets isn't enough, the PVM operates on a state-of-the-art wireless network, meaning it also provides a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots for those same tax-paying citizens.

To review: Convenient ways to pay. Ticket avoidance built in. Puts an end to the backlog and waste of cities trying to collect millions of dollars in unpaid tickets. Provides free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city at almost no cost. - The Bachelor Guy

If we really had control over our lives, and if this was really our city that we want, and not the city that politicians and big businesses and special interests want (and get), we would insist that these sorts of parking meters be purchased FROM THE PROCEEDS OF THIS MONTH'S PARKING VIOLATION REVENUE.One improvement I would like to see in the three Ticket Avoidance Systems above, is integration of a Ticket Payment System via SMS. If I can pay my meter through my phone and be reminded about only having a few minutes left on the meter, I should also be able to pay my ticket on my phone as soon as it's issued. It's only fair.

Photo by Tony Pierce for LAist.