Consultants hired to find more parking for Santa Monica found out a surprise: the city actually had enough. The real problem: parking is too cheap.
Local officials, eager to get people out of their cars, are debating raising parking fees. Boosting prices in popular areas, they feel, frees up more spaces. Those wanting to save a few bucks will park father away and either walk or take public transit to get to their destination. Those that want the convenience will pay more to be closer.
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Local employees seem to be causing the most problems. According to the Times, thrifty workers are parking and re-parking in structures on 2nd and 4th streets near the promenade to take advantage of the two-hours-free policy, taking away spaces from shoppers.
Critics say charging more will only drive customers away. The economy is hard enough on consumers; making things more expensive is bad for business.
Kathleen Rawson, an executive who helps manage the downtown business district, told the Times, "Because of the economic climate, any reason to choose another place is one too many."
The City Council is expected to raise daily and nighttime rates and make paying easier. A full day of parking would rise from $7 to $9 and on-street parking meters from $1 to $1.50 per hour. Meters might be converted to accept credit cards.
Councilman Bobby Shriver told the Times, "What we're saying is: 'Parking's not free in Santa Monica anymore.' "