LA officials unveil high-tech parking meters

City officials unveiled high-tech parking meters today that will give motorists the option of paying with a credit card if they can't find any change.

"Instead of carrying a bagful of quarters to feed the meter, drivers will now be able to pay quickly and conveniently with a credit card," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

The Transportation Department plans to install 10,000 "Coin and Card" parking meters in high-traffic areas by July 1. The devices are expected to bring in $1 million to $1.5 million every year, or about half of the city's annual parking meter revenue.

"A modern city needs modern technology," City Councilman Tom LaBonge added. "These smart meters will allow people to park with greater ease and pay with a swipe of the card."

The "Coin and Card" parking meters will charge the same rate as the old ones – $1 to $4 per hour depending on location and time of day – and accept Visa, Mastercard and Discover.

The solar-powered devices will replace only the top portion of old parking meters, and reuse the existing pole and base.

"By reusing our existing poles and using clean, solar power, these new Coin and Card meters are a win-win-for customers, the city and the environment," Villaraigosa said.

The new parking meters are capable of sending a wireless messages to a technician if they are vandalized or malfunction, according to the mayor's office.

"Broken meters frustrate drivers and cost the city too much lost revenue," Villaraigosa said.

When all of the "Coin and Card" meters are installed, the city will have upgraded 37 percent of its 40,000 meters, according to the mayor's office.

Five hundred of the upgraded meters are already on-line as part of a pilot program. The mayor's office said revenue from parking meters has increased nearly 40 percent in areas where the new Coin and Card systems have been installed.

Casey Hernandez of the mayor's office said the city will lease the "Coin and Card" meters from IPS Group for three years before taking ownership of them.

Under the deal, if the revenue from the parking meters is less than the monthly lease, the city will pay the lower amount, Hernandez said.

"We're guaranteed positive revenue because the city will never pay a vendor more than the revenue that the meter generates," Hernandez said.