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L.A., Santa Monica Test High-Tech Models : Digital Parking Meters Come to Area

Times Staff Writer

You’ve got your digital watch and your digital alarm clock, and now you can stow your wheels at a digital parking meter--at least in parts of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Technology marches on.

Los Angeles will begin testing about 30 electronic parking meters with digital readouts today in downtown on parts of Main and Spring streets.

And Santa Monica installed 25 electronic parking meters a few weeks ago as a tryout around Santa Monica Hospital on 15th Street.

“We’re interested in trying to keep up with state-of-the-art technology when it comes to parking meter mechanisms,” said Ray Davis, Santa Monica’s parking and traffic engineer. Santa Monica’s test meters came from Systron Electronic Systems of Downsview, Canada, but the city is also looking at meters produced by Duncan Industries, a unit of Rymer Co., the world’s largest manufacturer of parking meters. Los Angeles is testing the Duncan meters.

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“It’s the first big step in meter design,” said John Delianedis, the Los Angeles parking meter program manager. He went to work for the city in 1946, three years before parking meters made their first appearance in Los Angeles. “Since they started, it’s all been spring-wound, just like a regular winding clock.”

The very first parking meter was installed in 1935 in Oklahoma City.

Both Duncan and Systron introduced their parking meters in April at the Institutional and Municipal Parking Congress in Nashville, which showcases “everything to do with parking,” said Ralph Rio, Duncan’s vice president and general manager. Duncan of Rolling Meadows, Ill., produces 11 different parking meter models with more than 5,000 time and rate combinations.

Systron’s product is an electronic clock that fits onto existing Duncan meters, with a digital face replacing the familiar black needle that counts inexorably down to a red TIME EXPIRED flag. Now, a red bar of light flashes when the time is up.

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Duncan’s new meter is completely electronic with the exception of a red metal flag that signals violations. It also screens out such unwanted currency as pesos and other foreign coins. “You’re plagued with pesos in Los Angeles,” Rio said.

An electronic parking meter is easier to maintain than the old wind-up mechanical type, Davis said. The old clock-like variety can--he admits it--run fast or slow. The rate or time on the electronic meter can also be reprogrammed on the street rather than replacing the meter or taking it back to the shop, he said.

Duncan has already sold 1,711 electronic meters to Ann Arbor, Mich., and is testing meters in Philadelphia and Boston’s Logan Airport, Rio said.

Systron meters are being tested in 25 or 30 cities, including Portland, Ore.; Topeka, Kan., and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, said Dan Haroni, Systron’s director of marketing.

San Diego also has ordered a few to test, he said.


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