CITYWIDE — Apparently, Santa Monicans don’t like change.
A year and a half after a total overhaul to City Hall’s parking meters — including increased rates, changed time limits, and the introduction of a credit card payment option — revenues are way up, with a majority of the revenue coming from credit purchases not quarters.
In 2013, City Hall’s average monthly revenue from parking meters was $1,065,000 up from $625,000 before the changes were made, said Don Patterson, assistant director of finance. About 65 percent of the total revenue comes from credit cards, he said.
The work, which was completed between July of 2011 and June of 2012, cost taxpayers about $4.5 million, Patterson said.
Operating costs are up, too, from virtually nothing to just under a $1 million a year.
It costs City Hall about 26 cents, plus a fee for the transfer of data, every time you pay with a credit card, Patterson said.
The credit card fees are worth it for City Hall, with the average amount paid being $2 compared to the 60 cents that people spend when using change, Patterson said.
“I always just put in just an hour if I use the card, but if I put in a quarter then I’ll run to where I’m going and try to run back,” Patterson said.
Meter-related parking tickets are down slightly since the introduction of the new meters, he said.
While the Finance Department does have some leeway to adjust rates, they haven’t made any changes since the initial increases, Patterson said.
They have been tweaking time limits.
“There were some meters where the time limit had been set because of some prior use so businesses would have a 15 or 30 minute time limit in front of, for examples, a nail salon,” Patterson said. “I don’t get my nails done but apparently it always takes more than 30 minutes. We worked with the adjacent businesses to make sure the time limit tried to take care of their average customer needs.”
Between the time changes, the increased rates, and the new weight sensors, which make feeding the meter nearly impossible, some drivers who previously parked at meters all day were frustrated with the changes.
City Hall tried to curb the frustration by introducing lower rates for long-term parking areas near Main Street and Downtown.
One big advantage of the weight sensors is that it allows City Hall to collect and disseminate data about how people use parking spaces and where they are available. Traffic is created when drivers circle the blocks looking for parking. The sensors are in the process of making that better, Patterson said.
“Even during the busiest times, there’s generally parking available within a block of where you want to be,” he said.
City Hall already has a parking smartphone app, and city officials hope to link parking data with navigation systems and informational signs on the streets.
As these new systems roll out over the next couple years, Patterson said, the weight sensors will be the gift that keeps on giving.
“You’ll just be able to find that parking is always available but you’ve got to know where it is,” he said.