City Looking to Replace 1,620 Parking Meters with Single-Space ‘Smart’ Meters


Photo by Brian Addison.

If you’re like many who are dependent on debit and credit cards, scrounging for change to pay for your metered parking spot can be both frustrating and, should you not properly estimate how much time you need, detrimental to your wallet after you see that lovely white envelope stuck under your windshield wiper. The City of Long Beach has heard your cries for a more plastic-friendly parking world as it is looking to move forward with upgrading parking meters throughout Belmont Shore, Downtown, and The Pike.

Even better, they actually want your opinion on how they should do it.

After a three-year pilot program in Downtown Long Beach using multi-space meters from four different vendors—these are used for the numbered spaces such as those on Broadway at The Promenade, where a single service unit handles payment for multiple spaces—the City realized one thing: people don’t like them.

“We’ve been looking for some time to improve parking,” said Tom Modica, Deputy City Manager of Long Beach. “We spent a lot of time at beach lots and discovered that people enjoy multi-space meters there. However, on the streets, we discovered that people don’t like them because they’re inefficient and complicated.”

ParkingMeterThe solution? According a study conducted by City staff, the answer lies in single-space smart meters. These contraptions take coins, debit cards, credit cards, and even offer an app so you can scour for open parking spaces without having to mindlessly meander up and down streets.

IPS, the company which first marketed the smart meter, will be the vendor that the City is eying to replace the 1,620 meters throughout the three metered areas of Long Beach. (Not to mention that IPS currently owns about 95% of the single-space smart meter market.)

Of course, this won’t be free or even cheap. At $425 a meter, the cost to replace the meters across Long Beach will be $688,500 before sales tax. If the sensors are included to monitor when cars leave, tack another $405K before sales tax. Throw in some ADA compliancy issues at $81K and the total is eying $1M+. Additionally, while current meters cost about $158 per year to maintain, these smart meters will cost $446 per year to maintain.

“This isn’t about generating revenue; it’s about providing convenience,” Modica said. “But we have to prudent and make sure we can afford it.”

To offset the cost, the City is proposing a meter fee hike of 50 cents. This will bump Belmont Shore and Downtown Area’s parking fee of 50 cents/hour to $1/hour while the Downtown Core will rise from $1/hour to $1.50/hour. The $2/hour fee at The Pike will remain unaltered.

Though there will clearly be a cost to the implementation of the smart meters, there are possible increased revenue streams. 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). It has been shown that people are willing to pay the max parking amount with a card far more than when they pay for change.

“It’s a reliable technology,” Modica said. “Businesses like them. People like them. Cities like them. We want to make sure this a long term investment that betters us as a city and we think they’re going to be very popular.”

But the City won’t be guessing on the popularity of the smart meters as they will conduct a month-long outreach series of community meetings for the public to have their say on the matter. They already hosted two in Belmont Shore and will have the following meetings in the coming weeks:

  • Thursday, September 5 at 8 am – Executive Committee, Downtown Long Beach Association at Renaissance Hotel
  • Thursday, September 11 at 7 pm – Belmont Shore Residential Association
  • Monday, September 15 at 7 pm – Downtown Residential Council at TBA

Even if you can’t attend one of the meetings above, surely the comment section below can be your forum and read the full study included at the bottom of this article.

What are your thoughts on the proposed smart meter?

City of Long Beach: Final Report Parking Meters 8-15-14

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.