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New Parking Meters Mean Demand-Based Pricing is on the Way

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One of the new technologically advanced meters in Little Tokyo | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist

One of the new technologically advanced meters in Little Tokyo | Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist
After new high-tech "coin and card" meters were unveiled last week, KABC's Michael Linder over the weekend brought attention to them, saying they mean more than just credit card payments. "Street sensors and smart meters are being installed from the Garment District to Chinatown, Civic Center to Little Tokyo, able to send demand data to computers that can boost meter rates in a heartbeat," he said.

The downtown-focused project, called ExpressPark, is part Metro's federally-funded $290-million ExpressLanes Congestion Reduction Demonstration Project, which will also "bring demand-based toll pricing to the carpool lanes of the 110 and 10 freeways," according to blogdowntown in a report last year.

Studies have shown that 90% of congestion is thanks to people cruising for cheap parking. A system that would base pricing on time of day (how the project will first work) or demand (how the project will probably lead to) should always leave about 30% of spaces open on any given street. “When the blocks are full, the price will go up. When blocks are empty, the price will go down," the project's manager, Peer Ghent, told Linder.

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Prices could go reach $6 per hour.

Damien Newton at Streetsblog LA says that any backlash against this would be unwarranted. "The specter of the city basing its parking costs on demand instead of an artificially reduced rate that makes drivers happy is beginning to make some waves in the media," he wrote this morning. "As you might expect, the reaction isn't jubilation that the city is doing what it can to reduce car congestion, but is instead anger that the city would dare, ya know, charge people money to rent public property to store their personal property."

Newton, however, criticizes how the city handles collected money. "The city opens itself to real criticism because all of the funds from its parking policies go into the General Fund, which is viewed by many as a yawning black hole," he said. "If the funds went into local projects instead of the general fund it would head off the criticism that the city's right-minded, and progressive, efforts to reform the parking system and reduce congestion is all about the bottom line."

That thought is in line with UCLA "parking god" professor Donald Shoup, who champions higher parking meter rates, but says revenues should go straight back into improvements for the immediate area, not into city coffers.

The project will also bring signage to downtown streets leading drivers to where parking is available.

According to Rita Robinson, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the "ExpressPark Project is expected to start circulating real-time data in 2011."

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