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Parking rates may increase

L.A. council also votes to extend the meters' hours of operation to generate more money.

July 17, 2008|Joanna Lin | Times Staff Writer

Already reeling from high gas prices, motorists soon will have to pay more to park in Los Angeles.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the rates and extend the hours of parking meters in an effort to generate extra revenue and decrease street traffic.

Pending approval by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the ordinance probably will take effect at the end of August.

Under the proposed ordinance, parking meters with rates of 25 or 50 cents an hour would increase to $1 an hour. Meters that now cost 75 cents or more an hour would double -- up to $4 an hour in some of the city's most congested areas.

Metered hours also would increase citywide by two hours, to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. In entertainment and shopping districts such as Hollywood, meters would operate until midnight Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Bruce Gillman, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said the extended hours and higher rates were expected to net the city an additional $18 million annually, nearly doubling the revenue it now receives from meters. The department will need about three months to implement the changes at the city's 40,000 or so parking meters, he said.

Los Angeles has not increased its parking meter rates in 17 years, Gillman said. Compared with other cities, he said, Los Angeles has among the lowest rates in the nation.

In Pasadena, almost all parking meters cost $1.25 an hour. Santa Monica charges 75 cents an hour citywide and $1 an hour for its downtown business district, where meters operate until 2 a.m.

The ordinance would put Los Angeles' parking rates on par with those in San Francisco, which charges $3 an hour downtown, $2.50 in the area immediately surrounding it and at least $1.50 in other parts of the city. In L.A., the most expensive meter rate will be $4 an hour, in the central business district and civic center.

But most parking meters in the city will cost $1 an hour. The areas charging more than that -- those with the highest demand -- account for 14% of all meters, Gillman said.

City officials say they also hope the ordinance helps combat congestion and pollution, and takes more cars off the road. Gillman said the city hadn't studied how the ordinance might decrease traffic and pollution, but outside studies support his optimism.

Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA and expert on parking, and his students studied parking in a 15-block area of Westwood Village and reported that drivers searching for street parking added about 2,500 vehicle trips a day.

On average, drivers circled the block 2.5 times for the 470 spaces, which will double from 50 cents an hour to $1. Searching for a space took an average 3.3 minutes and up to 12 minutes in the late afternoon and evenings, Shoup and his students found. The study found that the parking searches added about 950,000 excess vehicle miles -- the equivalent of 47,000 gallons of gas and 730 tons of carbon dioxide.

The underlying goal of the ordinance, Gillman said, is to get people out of their cars.

"It's not just one little thing" that takes cars off the road, he said, noting that more Angelenos are riding public transit because of rising gas prices. "It's a composite."

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joanna.lin@latimes.com

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