City Hall officials thought it would be good community relations to charge all parade participants $3 to park. That was bad enough but there were those damnable payment machines.
I wrote, “After the parade, I finally located the ticket machine … and looked for how to pay. Because there were no clear instructions, I probably put my credit card in the cash slot. “Nothing happened. I pushed ‘cancel.’ Parking ticket and credit card popped out. I repeated the process. Nothing. I pushed ‘cancel’ and the ticket spit out, but no credit card. I reinserted the ticket. Again, nothing. Nada.”
Another customer approached and suggested that I push “cancel” again. Out popped the card. I let him go ahead of me and watched. “At least I knew what slots to use. So, I reinserted my parking ticket. It was rejected as ‘unreadable.’”
Fortunately, I found a real, live human attendant at the adjoining surface lot who took $3 and handed me a coded ticket that enabled me to exit the structure.
I wrote that comedian Larry David had a similar experience in a Downtown garage a couple months earlier. It made national news and cemented Santa Monica’s parking as being unwieldy and unfriendly. “Apparently, nothing’s changed,” I wrote.
Thirteen months later and still nothing has changed. This time, it was a week ago Friday evening in Structure No. 9 north of Wilshire Boulevard on Fourth Street. My friend and I had returned from the Third Street Promenade. Yeah, I know, it’s a place I try to avoid, except my buddy thinks it’s festive and fun.
There was a long line at the payment machine. Eight or nine, families, individuals and couples were behind a gentlemen who had also put his credit card in the cash slot and couldn’t get it back.
He finally retrieved it and a good Samaritan gave him a dollar so he could leave the garage. The line moved up. Most folks had a problem although a few knew the drill. I wondered how many parkers got hit with an additional buck in overtime charges after standing in line eight or 10 minutes.
By the time my friend and I finished, another eight or nine parties were behind us. “Welcome to Santa Monica where customer service is king,” I said as we walked back to our car.
City Hall’s Finance Department oversees the municipal parking operations. My long-time readers know all about the Finance Department. These were the folks who decided that they didn’t have to follow California Department of Motor Vehicles regulations on procedures for administrating parking citation appeals a couple of years ago.
After they took a lot of flak from me and the public about their mishandling of the appeals, City Hall actually had the gull to issue a press release saying they were improving their customer service. After being sued and ending up on the wrong end of a judgment, they finally cleaned up their act.
How difficult is it to put some stickers on the ticket machines that say “Insert credit card HERE” or “Insert cash in HERE?” How about signage that tells first time visitors how to pay for parking — in English and Spanish? I know it’s a lot to ask.
It’s just one more example of how City Hall responds to suggestions from the public and shows how indifferent the bureaucrats can be when coping with even small problems.
You’d think the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., folks would be all over this. Visitors and residents alike have enough problems with traffic and parking without enduring another frustrating, negative experience. It’s why many just don’t come back and go elsewhere “next time.”
Speaking of parking, effective Oct. 1, the cost for annual resident parking zone permits are going up — way up.
The first permit jumps from $15 to $20. The second permit jumps from $15 to $25, the third from $15 to $40. Additional permits will be $60 each. Annual visitor permits are going from $15 to $30 each, maximum of two.
If you get two resident parking permits and one visitor permit, it’ll cost you $75 instead of $45. Thanks again to the Finance Department (which should take lessons from the City Clerk’s office on customer service) and your City Council for approving the increases.
If City Hall can’t respond to complaints about their parking garage payment machines why would we expect it to respond to big, important stuff like restricting new building heights or improving Santa Monica’s driving experience?
But, not all is totally bad. I cruised by Adelaide Drive last week. On July 29, I wrote that the 500 block of Adelaide Drive has become a workout heaven for trainers and their clients. There was so much activity and equipment that the sidewalk was impassable, necessitating stepping into the street to get around the congestion.
Last week, there was only one small group — four or five women were stretching and sitting on one section of the narrow sidewalk.
Did someone from City Hall respond to my comments about keeping the sidewalk clear for pedestrians? Or, was it because it was around lunchtime and most of the trainers and their clients had left?
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.