Photos by Asia Morris.
You know it's going to be a good week for Long Beach when a hazy Monday morning and the City's first smart meters bring out five different camera crews and a small, very specific audience, excited about parking technology. Monday morning marked the start of the City of Long Beach's smart meter implementation program, when city officials unveiled the first of the smart meters to be installed throughout the city over the next five weeks.
According to Tom Modica, Assistant City Manager, Long Beach will be equipped with 1,620 meters, which will be installed at a rate of about 350 per week in Downtown, Belmont Shore and The Pike. The entire installation should be complete within five weeks. The solar-powered, technologically-advanced meters will allow customers to pay for parking with not only coins, but also with credit or debit cards.
Mayor Robert Garcia said that in the near future, "[...]there will not be a parking meter anywhere in the City of Long Beach that is not a smart meter."
"One of the things that's really important about this change is as a city we're really committed to technology, to innovation, and making sure that all of our services are really efficient and easy to use for all of our residents," he told a crowd of councilmembers and city supporters.
"I also just want to say that one of the things I'm most excited about these meters, is you're going to be able to actually use your cell phone and use cell phone technology to connect with the meter," he continued. "And so if I'm coming to downtown or to Belmont Shore and there are active parking spaces that are open, I'll be able to find out from a parking app where those spaces are."
Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal thanked the community for their input, given during the 14 community meetings, the online community forum and through the social media outreach of the City.
"What we're saying today is we have listened to you," she stated matter-of-factly. "And one of the suggestions we received was to offer the first five minutes free for all spaces. Even if the meter does not have any time left."
"[...] I think there was some concern that this was a way for the City to make so much more money, but it really wasn't, it was a way to make parking available to folks and make sure it's not commandeered by people who may not be doing business in front of a store," she continued.
Parking patrons can use the free five-minute allotment upon arrival, which, according to Lowenthal, will compensate for lost time that may have been left on the meter or to simply run a quick errand completely free of charge. Users will also be able to pre-pay for time at a meter, up to two hours before enforcement begins.
First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez explained the smart meters will collect data to determine whether their enforcement hours reflect the actual use of the space and whether these times need to be reassessed. The meters will help inform the City of available spaces, the length of time each user spends in the space and the turnover rate, which the City's existing meters do not collect.
Gonzalez also said the City is still in the process of developing a website, as well as the app, that will allow users to learn more about when and where they can park straight from their smartphones or computers. Along with being solar powered, the smart meters will have backlit screens for viewing in different weather conditions and will alert users to changes in parking rates, such as whether parking is free on a holiday or if parking is restricted for a special event.
Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price mentioned the financial side of the program, announcing that the City "participated in a process to procure and implement these parking meters that allowed the City to save a lot of money through our piggyback purchasing process" with the City of Sacramento. According to Price, the City of Long Beach was able to save money and ensure that the cost of the meters did not exceed the revenue collected.
"This is really a great day for the City of Long Beach," Garcia said before the first smart meters were shown off. "We're really excited to unveil this great technology."
To learn how to use the meters, click here.
New Rates and Enforcement Hours
Belmont Shore (2nd St.)
10:00AM to 7:00PM
Daily, excluding holidays
9:00AM to 9:00PM
Daily, including holidays
9:00AM to 6:00PM
Monday through Saturday, excludes Sunday and holidays
9:00AM to 9:00PM
Daily, including holidays