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LA city parking improvement ideas moving ahead

To encourage shoppers, San Pedro and Wilmington are removing some parking meters
Corey Moore/KPCC
Los Angeles could expand variable-price parking meters, which charge more during peak hours and less when demand falls.

The Los Angeles City Council will take up proposals that could lower parking fines and make it less likely for drivers to get tickets for street sweeping violations.

Both ideas are part of a package of parking changes introduced Tuesday by Councilman Mike Bonin. They're based on recommendations from a citizens' advisory group convened by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The proposals are intended to make the entire parking system more user-friendly while still discouraging drivers from breaking the rules.

"Parking is one of the few ways that everybody encounters city government," said Bonin. "What we're trying to do is give folks a real sense that government is on their side and not on their back."

The proposals call for studying the current parking fine structure and reducing fines to the lowest possible amount while still serving as a deterrent. Bonin said parking fines should not be seen as "the golden goose for the city."

He also proposed returning revenues from parking to the neighborhoods where they are generated. Currently, all parking revenues go into a central fund.

Research by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup has shown that reinvesting parking revenue locally improves community satisfaction with the fees.

Another idea championed by planning experts also got traction: expanding variable-rate parking meters. The meters charge more during peak hours to manage demand for spaces and then drop to cheaper rates when traffic is lighter.

Bonin said the program, called ExpressPark, has been working well in downtown L.A. and other locations, with most drivers paying less on average for parking.

One of the most ambitious parking proposals involves "coding" all of the parking areas in the city to transmit alerts to smartphones. The notices tell drivers when they have parked illegally or if they are nearing the end of their time limits.

Smartphone messages could also alert drivers when a street sweeping truck has already passed, allowing them to park in areas that have been cleaned.

"We're trying to use technology to come up with better, fairer and simpler systems," said Bonin.

The proposals will be heard by the council's Transportation Committee and could be voted on early next year.