Santa Monica parking meters will be upgraded

Fall 2010 was Anisa Tym’s first semester at Santa Monica College and, as most students know, it is important to come to school at least an hour in advance to avoid traffic jams and find parking. Tym did not believe that finding parking on Pearl Street would be much of a hassle, and her first day proved her wrong.

She managed to snag an empty parking space, only to find out it had a broken parking meter.

“I had nothing but bad luck on my first day. Not only was I trying to crash classes, but I was late trying to crash them,” Tym recalled.

“I’ve always thought that you can park for free if a meter is broken, but I got a $50 ticket,” Tym said.

Many students can relate to Tym’s situation, but the question - whether or not it is free to park at a jammed or broken meter - still hangs in the air.

Los Angeles parking enforcement officer Tammy Williams says that if a parking meter is out of order, one should still feed it with coins, even if time does not show up on the display window.

“If the meter says ‘fail,’ it usually resumes after a few minutes,” said Williams. “A lot of people just assume that it’s free to park there, but it’s not.”

Frank Ching, parking coordinator for Santa Monica, also confirmed that a jammed parking meter does not equal free parking. Still, how would a student know if they can park there or not, especially if they are desperate for a parking spot?

“People should try to find other parking spots, but if they get a ticket and want to contest it, take a picture of the meter as evidence when contesting,” said Ching. One can also report a broken meter to the Santa Monica Police Department.

Well, it is clear now that it is not advisable to park next to a jammed or broken meter, unless of course one can spare the time to contest a parking ticket.

There are many reasons why a parking meter breaks down every now and then.

Jammed and old meters are the most common reasons. Suitably, on Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Santa Monica City Council discussed the purchase and installation of new parking meters throughout the city.

The project of replacing the current 6,100 traditional parking meters throughout the city will run a bill of approximately $4.5 million with ongoing operating costs estimated at $612,000 annually.

It is suggested that the meters will be maintained and operated by the California-based company IPS Group Inc.

The new single-space meters will provide electronic payment options such as credit, debit pay-by-phone, as well as the traditional coin option.

From January to June 2011, parking staff installed 75 new meters in high-demand areas on Ocean Avenue, Arizona Avenue and Main Street, as part of a trial program, according to the Santa Monica City Council report.

Staff noticed improved customer service as malfunctioning meters would automatically alert meter-maintenance staff, and if one payment option is off-line for some reason or other, the other two would still usually be available to customers.

The pilot project also recorded an estimated 10-15 percent revenue increase due to the greater number of customers using cards or the pay-by-phone option.

The project has been approved by the City Council, and “depending on how smooth the contract preparation and signing is, will deter when we can start,” Ching said. “We are looking to execute things in December and be done around March sometime.”

Old-school coin meters have long been due a facelift, especially around SMC, where the parking is rare and the enforcement heavily patrols Pearl Street and Pico Boulevard, looking to hand out tickets.

Luckily, the majority of SMC students can at least take a picture of a broken meter and use that to contest a parking ticket.

The benefit of the new meters is the improved choice of payment options, as many students prefer swiping a card to carrying coins.

The wait for new meters shouldn’t last much longer.

With the last of the faulty, temperamental meters, gone will be the excuse for the bevy of tickets, as the new meters have been successful in other parts of the city.