Smart parking meters line Barnard Way near the beach. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

As City Hall oversees the installation of 6,100 new parking meters that run on solar power and accept different forms of payment, including credit cards and smartphone apps, some people may be wondering what that means for the Santa MoniCard.

Well, city officials say those cards, which were first made available in 2006 and act as debit cards that allow people to store up to $120 at a time, are still good and have released a set of instructions to help make it easier to use them at the new meters.

The way the Santa MoniCard works is simple. First, insert the card into the meter slot and leave it in. The remaining balance on the card should be displayed. Press the “+” or “-” buttons to adjust how much time is purchased and then press “OK” to confirm the transaction or “cancel” to void it. Then remove the card from the meter slot.

Don Patterson, City Hall’s business and revenue operations manager, said initially the new meters, which were purchased for $4.5 million and will replace conventional meters that only accept coins and Santa MoniCards, were not going to be able to read the Santa MoniCard.

“We were going to provide an opportunity for any outstanding cards to get refunds,” Patterson said. “However, the new meters were able to be programmed to accept the cards, so people can continue to use them.”

The challenge, Patterson said, is that the cards work differently than credit cards. Without a database of people that bought the Santa MoniCards, city staff is in the process of disseminating instructions on how to use them by posting the instructions on City Hall’s website.

The new meters, which cost roughly $600,000 annually to operate, are expected to increase parking revenue by approximately $1.7 million since they are more reliable, reduce the amount of cash handled by staff and make it easier to raise rates as demand increases, according to a city staff report.

City Hall has a “few” Santa MoniCards left for purchase, and there are no plans to order more once those run out, Patterson said.

“[We’re] only supporting those already out there,” he said.

The equipment used to reload the cards is outdated and the company that produced it doesn’t support the technology anymore, Patterson said.

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