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Bill would allow L.A. motorists to park free if meters are broken

Parking meter technician Gerardo Salazar pulls a wad of paper out of the coin slot in a meter on Santee Street in downtown Los Angeles in 2010.

Ever wonder if you can park at a broken meter in Los Angeles without getting a ticket?

The answer: not really.

But that could change with a state bill introduced this week that would allow all California motorists to park for free at broken meters.

“When parking meters are broken or a payment center is inoperable, motorists should be allowed to park for the posted time limit without getting a ticket,” said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord).

“Motorists already think that increased parking enforcement is because of tight municipal budgets,” DeSaulnier said. “Let’s not make things worse by wrongly ticketing motorists.”

Senate Bill 1388 is sponsored by the American Automobile Assn. The organization believes there is no consistency among transportation agencies as to the rules of whether drivers can park at broken meters, creating confusion for motorists.

“The real bottom line is people should know the situation before they park and get a ticket,” said Steve Finnegan of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Officials with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation said it used to be the agency’s policy to allow drivers to park at all broken meters without fear of getting a ticket.

But that changed in 2010 after they rolled out newer, more advanced meters that accept both credit cards and coins, said Christopher Rider of the LADOT.

Rider said those parking meters work about 99% of the time, and when there is a malfunction, a text message is automatically sent to a technician to fix the problem.

They also have a red sticker attached, informing motorists that they need to pay whether a meter works or not.

The department still allows motorists to park at broken meters if they are older ones that only accept coins. But officials cautioned that those meters may sometimes look broken but they could reset themselves.

To protect against getting a citation at older meters that are broken, LADOT officials said motorists should call 311 and report the meter so there is a record of the malfunction.


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Photo: Parking meter technician Gerardo Salazar pulls a wad of paper out of the coin slot in a meter on Santee Street in downtown Los Angeles in 2010. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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