Santa Monica’s new parking meters absorb left over money when cars leave

May 15, 2012

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It wasn’t so long ago that the city of Los Angeles installed parking meters that take credit cards. Is the next step so-called “smart meters” that reset after your car has driven away? For Santa Monica, it is. Credit: Corey Moore/KPCC

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you know how thrilling it is to park in a meter spot and discover that there is already paid-for-time remaining on the meter. For motorists parking in Santa Monica, however, the days of getting someone’s left over meter time have come to an end.

On Monday, the city began installing thousands of new parking meters that can actually sense when one car leaves and another arrives. The new meters reset to zero after a car vacates, preventing the next driver from receiving any left over time. What happens to the unused funds? No, consumers are not reimbursed. The money is actually kept by the city, which expects to raise its meter revenue by $1.7 million. These meters also do not allow motorists to pay more than the maximum time allowed for a given spot, which blocks drivers from keeping a space for several hours by simply continuously feeding meters.

The new meters will take payment by coin, credit card or by cell phone. Drivers can also receive text message warnings of their expiring meters. Eventually, the status of the space will be indicated on Santa Monica’s real-time parking map, available on the city’s official website and will provide the city with data about parking patterns.


How appropriate is it for Santa Monica to immediately claim any unused money paid into parking meters? Will this new meter system increase parking availability in the area or will it merely end with more parking tickets being issued?


Don Patterson, assistant director of finance for the City of Santa Monica

Sam Morrissey, engineer, City of Santa Monica

John Van Horn, editor, Parking Today, a monthly magazine for the commercial and institutional parking industry

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