City Council Approves Replacement of 1,620 Parking Meters with Single-Space Smart Meters

Photo by Brian Addison.

After many discussions since August and a heated group of citizens speaking out in protest last night at City Hall, the Long Beach City Council unanimously (8-0) supported the implementation of smart parking meters throughout the Downtown Core, Pike and Belmont Shore areas. The move additionally results in a parking fee hike of 50 cents in the Downtown Core and Belmont Shore areas to offset the cost of installing the new meters.

The City has long been looking to improve the parking situations in both of these areas after discovering that the multi-space meters, such as those along Broadway at The Promenade, were widely ineffective and annoying to users. The three-year pilot program implemented for the multi-space spots provided only one good thing: the ability to use plastic for the times when scrounging for change in between seat cushions proved unfruitful.

Gaining approval through the Council last night, the City Manager will now execute a contract with San Diego-based IPS, the company which first marketed the smart meter. (Not to mention that IPS currently owns about 95% of the single-space smart meter market.)

IPS, for about $1.5M, will replace 1,620 meters throughout the three metered areas of Long Beach. Once installed, parking spots will be equipped with sensors that know when the car has left the spot, resetting the meter (which bums out anyone who gets excited when pulling up to a meter and discovering there is still time left on it). With that as a possible revenue stream, it has also been shown that people are willing to pay the max parking amount with a card far more than when they pay for change, creating yet another revenue stream.

Despite the upgrades, many felt the fee hike in Downtown was unnecessary—even insinuating that Downtown, currently going through a renaissance of sorts that involves attracting new businesses, is getting the short end of the stick.

“The Historic Pine Avenue Business Association has spent an incredible amount of time since 2012 fighting for parity in parking meter rates between Downtown Long Beach and Belmont Shore and unfortunately, this wasn’t achieved,” said Downtown resident Eric Gray. “Parts of Downtown that are still developing will be subject to double the rates of parking meter prices than Belmont Shore.”

The Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) are in agreement with the move, having formally supported the smart meter implementation at its November 6 Executive Committee meeting. It also had suggestions which were included in the City staff report last night, including stakeholder outreach before the meters are installed, a website dedicated solely to parking as well as a smartphone app to use all the benefits of the smart meter, a pocket parking guide, a free 5-minute window in spots, a grace period for issuing fines, and the installation of vehicle counters in parking structures to provide drivers real-time availability of spots.

The DLBA will be offering $451,478 for the purchase of the new meters from a portion of the organization’s share of new net revenues from the first two years of the new parking meter operations.

Though many were pleased with DLBA’s suggestions, not all were happy with the $257,003 to be spent on a website and parking app.

“I think the proposed $257K could have been modified down to a more appropriate cost to develop a mobile parking application and website locally and utilizing extra revenue projections to lower parking meter rates in the economically developing portions of Downtown,” Gray said. “I was looking for a compromise… I am looking forward to the smart meters being installed due to the ease-of-use factor and aesthetic upgrade to our Downtown streets. However, I am disappointed that we couldn’t have come to a greater compromise in meter rates particularly in the more economically developing areas of Downtown Long Beach. These areas will be subject to a $1.50 per hour compared with Belmont Shore’s 75 cents per hour.”

The Belmont Shore Parking Commission will continue to get 100% of the revenue from the meters. Downtown, however, will have 50% go to the DLBA and 50% back to the City for the general fund.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.