The City of Santa Monica is planning to implement automated credit card payment services in its parking structure exits in an effort to ease long lines of traffic waiting to exit, and to offer visitors a payment option besides just cash or check.

The implementation is expected to take place in spring or early summer, said Carol Swindell, the city’s director of finance.

“We’ll test the system in Parking Structure #5 for a month, and if we don’t have any problems, we’ll expand shortly thereafter to the other eight,” Swindell said. “If there’s something we have to resolve, it will take a little bit longer.”

Parking Structures #7 and #8, which are attached to Santa Monica Place and will be remodeled along with the mall, will not have credit card machines installed until the remodel is complete, Swindell said.

“We’ve been talking about [doing] this for several months, both as a convenience and as a way of improving customer service,” Swindell said. “Our goal is to increase the speed in which people are able to exit the parking garage. We recognize queuing can be an issue at peak times.”

Those who pay with credit cards will not have to exit through the lane with an attendant, as the system is automatic and doesn’t require a person to process the transaction, making it faster, Swindell said.

She points out that people don’t always have cash on them, and while checks are accepted, filling them out makes the process take even longer.

In fact, the city may consider discontinuing the acceptance of checks in its parking garages once credit cards are accepted, Swindell said.

The city estimates it will cost approximately $105,000 annually to accept credit cards in nine out of its 11 structures, Swindell said. Initially, the city will accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

The city’s parking structures serve over 3.6 million visitors each year — up from three million from six years ago, says Eva U’Ren, the city’s revenue manager.

Revenue from parking structure visitors is expected to be $5.4 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year, U’Ren said.

Payment Resources International, which has been processing credit card payments for the city since 2003, will implement the changes in the parking structures.

Currently, the city accepts credit card payments for utilities, parking citations, business license payments, planning fees, recreational class fees and permits, among other things.

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