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ExpressPark Contract Heads to Council with Questions about Technology

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, August 11, 2011, at 06:20PM
New Credit Card Meter on 9th Eric Richardson [Flickr]

10,000 new parking meters that accept credit card payments were installed by the city last summer.

The city's ambitious program to add smarts to 6,000 on-street parking spaces around Downtown appears set to pass its final green light, despite last-minute concerns that the technology chosen might not be up to the job.

Prompted by a letter from the City Controller's office, Councilmembers spent much of a Wednesday meeting of the Transportation committee grilling the Department of Transportation about the selection of sensors from Streetline Networks, a sub-contractor on the $30.5 million contract up for a final vote on Friday.

Earlier this year, the city of San Francisco decided that 8,000 sensors installed by Streetline were not able to meet the specifications required by its SFpark project. It replaced the devices with ones from StreetSmart Technology

Representatives from the Department of Transportation, Streetline and primary contractor ACS State & Local Solutions told the committee that San Francisco's woes had to do with unrealistic expectations and underground electromagnetic interference that isn't found in Los Angeles. The city has installed Streetline sensors in Hollywood and Studio City in recent years, and LADOT said that they had worked as expected.

More discussion is likely to take place during Friday's Council session.

Once installed, ExpressPark would bring a big dose of smarts to Downtown's streets, integrating meter data and occupancy sensors installed in the street to create a realtime picture of how parking spaces are being used. Drivers will be guided to open spaces via GPS and mobile app integration, and specifications also require that registered parkers be able to add time to their meter via text or email when given an alert saying that the clock is running low.

All that new data will allow pricing to be dynamically adjusted up or down to achieve the target occupancy rate of 70 to 90 percent. In the eyes of program proponents, that level is the sweet spot in allowing drivers to find fairly priced, available short-term parking. The ordinance allowing LADOT to adjust rates is also on Friday's Council agenda.

If approved on Friday, construction for the system would begin in September and run until April. A one-year federal pilot project would take place from April 2012 to April 2013, and the city would be responsible for deciding to continue with the program afterward.

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