Parking on the street in Santa Monica can be quite the challenge.
Parking enforcement is already quick to ticket, a car usually swoops in the second a spot clears up and if you’re visiting the 3rd Street Promenade, you might as well forget about finding a spot and head straight to a parking garage.
Now, it's even more complicated. On Monday, the city began installing thousands of new parking meters that can actually tell when one car leaves and another arrives.
To do this, the meters will use a ground sensor about the size of a hockey puck to monitor the movements of the vehicles. If a driver wants to stay parked in the spot past the allotted time, the meter will not accept additional payment.
This means no more feeding the meter to stay more than the allotted number of hours. And in what some residents say is a money-grab, the meters will ignore any extra money that a driver has paid, and make it appear that no time is left.
And the city plans to keep the money.
Traffic engineer Sam Morrissey said the city still doesn’t have the technology to issue such refunds to customers for unused time.
“We just don’t have the technological basis to do a refund,” Morrissey said. “If people were worried about overpaying, we suggest people use the mobile app.”
Some people think the city is being greedy.
“I just think this is big brotherism when you’ve got sensors,” said tourist Duncan Anderson. “That’s a shame.”
With roughly 6,000 meters and censors being installed, Santa Monica is expected to add $1.7 million in revenue to its $8 million meter program.
“What we’ve found is that the spaces turn over more frequently,” said Donald Patterson, assistant manager of Santa Monica’s finance department. “Because the use of credit cards primarily, the revenue of the parking meters increased about 15 percent.”
Santa Monica resident Lilo Siegman thinks the city should be less strict on parking during certain times of the day.
"If they have to raise money, it’s one way, but they should give back to Santa Monica by giving them more parking in the evening and certainly during the weekends,” Siegman said.
The new spots will take payment by coin, credit card or by cell phone. Drivers can also receive text message warnings of their expiring meters.
Eventually, the spots will be added to the Santa Monica’s real-time parking map, available on the city’s official website.