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SOUTHLAND BUSINESS

Parking Problem

September 20, 1987|MARTHA GROVES

Seventh Market Place, the young downtown Los Angeles mall at 7th and Figueroa, has been plagued by complaints about its big, yellow, high-tech parking-lot payment machines since opening in April, 1986. "You need an engineering degree to operate one," is a familiar refrain.

Now the mall's management thinks that it has come up with a low-tech solution of sorts.

Starting in three months or so, customers won't have to follow the steps printed on the machines, which involve plugging in parking tickets, making a payment and retrieving a pass needed to activate a gate at the exit. Instead, they'll be able to hand their parking tickets to an individual in a kiosk who in turn will feed the tickets into the machines and retrieve the exit passes.

It's kind of like getting full serve at the gas station.

Given an estimated investment in the garage's 10 British-made machines of $500,000, the mall's management isn't giving up on them yet. "We find that people who have used the machine once have no problem" and can complete the payment transaction in 12 seconds, said Frank Wright, general manager. First-time users, however, often complain that the machine devours tickets and refuses to cough up an exit ticket.

Another argument against chucking the machines is that the design of the nine-level garage, which holds 1,500 cars, doesn't allow for additional cashier booths at the exits.

Wright said a new plan also calls for the instructions on the machines to be stripped off and redone "to make them more user-friendly." And to make the stark, concrete garage walls more appealing, they'll be painted white and new directional signs will be installed, at a cost of about $250,000, Wright said.

The mall also hopes the brighter look will appease customers who have been reluctant to leave their cars in the dark garage. Actually, Wright said, car theft has not been much of a problem. To date, the only two cars stolen from the garage were taken by a fake valet parker.

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