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High-tech L.A. parking meters will take credit and debit cards; sensors monitor when time's up

August 22, 2010 | 12:07 pm

Parking meters

The days of lugging around fistfuls of quarters to feed hungry parking meters, or circling the block repeatedly in search of a parking space, could be nearing an end for downtown Los Angeles motorists.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has begun installing 10,000 high-tech parking meters throughout the city that allow for credit-card and debit-card payment, in addition to coins. And next year, the downtown area will host an experimental program that aims to take much of the hassle out of parking.

The yearlong ExpressPark program, slated to begin next summer, will use not only new meters but also a network of wireless pavement sensors to keep track of parked vehicles in real time. The sensors will help transportation officials determine which meters are in use and which have expired. Eventually, roadside signs will guide motorists to empty spaces in municipal parking garages and lots.

The program — which involves only city-owned parking in a 4.5-square-mile area — will feature adjustable parking rates, or "dynamic pricing." In other words, when parking demand increases, meter rates increase; when demand drops, rates drop.

"ExpressPark will allow Los Angeles to take the lead in testing new ways to manage curb parking," said Donald C. Shoup, a UCLA professor of urban planning and a longtime proponent of pricing based on supply and demand.

Read more: "L.A. Program Aims to Make Parking Easier."

-- Martha Groves

Photo: Broken parking meters sit in a pile at the Piper Technical Center in Los Angeles. The city is replacing many coin-only meters with ones that also accept credit and debit cards. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times