THE VILLAGE – The La Mesa City Council last night voted to launch downtown into the future of parking technology. Starting in early August, customers of businesses along La Mesa Boulevard between Fourth and Acacia streets will use hi-tech, solar-powered parking meters that will accept payment by coin, credit, debit or gift card.
The council voted 5-0 to follow the advice of its citizen Parking Commission and purchase 100 of the new meters. The commission studied the new meters and determined that the $72,000 investment will quickly repay the downtown Parking District with increased revenues.
In addition to taking various forms of payment, the new meters also monitor the parking space and, when a motorist departs, automatically returns the meter to “zero.’’
Gone is the serendipity of pulling into a space and discovering 30 minutes left on the meter by the previous motorist (though that delight can still be experienced at the traditional meters that will still be used on side streets and in the city’s parking lots.)
The new meters will also have Internet connection and can be monitored by parking staff from a central location to facilitate maintenance and to help schedule cash pickups.
While other municipalities in the county, including the City of San Diego, have used electronic parking systems, La Mesa’s meters will not require a centralized “ticketing’’ machine that motorists must visit to make their payment. These new meters will handle only one spot each, like traditional meters, but the detection equipment and the new payment choices, city officials believe, will increase parking revenues.
The meters are manufactured by International Parking Services and the city will contract with the firm to help manage and maintain the system. The new meters will fit atop the current meter poles and won’t require disruptive installation processes.
City Council members and Mayor Art Madrid paid a lot of attention to this issue at last night’s meeting with Councilman Ernest Ewin asking for the privilege of being the first to use a credit card on one of the devices. Parking and the contentment of downtown’s merchants has been a frequent focus of council meetings and everyone is hoping the new meters will please the merchants and their customers.
“Customer service is what it is all about,’’ Madrid said.
And if the meters cover their costs and generate more income for downtown improvements, so much the better the council members agreed.
Still, the city is not going to junk the 100 meters that will be removed to make way for the new technology.
City staff said the meters would be moth-balled and kept ready until the new technology proves its worth.