La Mesa Takes Hi-Tech Step Into Parking Future

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.

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Comment by Craig S. Maxwell on June 24, 2010 at 11:14am
Though this article suggests that the new parking meters will be a boon for downtown merchants, those of us who have actually dealt with the matter will likely take a less sanguine view. The majority of merchants were, and continue to be, angered by both the city's exorbitant parking parking fee increases and aggressive ticket issuing policy, and we tried desperately to reach some sort of reasonable compromise with them. But our numerous overtures to the parking commission were all rudely rebuffed, and the the council--putting it's own fiscal interests well ahead of those they're supposed to represent—readily swallowed the commission's recommendation, hook line and sinker.

But, of course, for sheer audacity and blatant dishonesty, the blue ribbon must (as always...) be awarded to Grand Poobah Art Madrid, who topped all these comments by saying, “Customer service is what it is all about.’’ “Customer service!?” That's rich! For the sake of both the record and common decency, let us plainly state what this new electronic technology is really about: making money for the city. And it will do so--at the merchant's expense!--by doing for our spendthrift city what electric shears do for sheep ranchers; i.e, make it easier to fleece the very customers on whom our livelihoods depend.

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