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Map of the L.A. Express Park system for Westwood. Image via L.A. Express Park
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At a press event yesterday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilmember Paul Koretz celebrated the expansion of L.A. Express Park to Westwood.

Westwood has long had a reputation for being a difficult area to park. Express Park should, over time, make finding a parking space there easier. This is good for number of reasons, including reducing traffic congestion exacerbated by drivers "cruising" for a parking space. A study that appears in Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking found that, during peak hours, 68 percent of Westwood traffic was drivers cruising for parking.

For readers unfamiliar with L.A. Express Park, it is a "performance-based parking" pricing program. These programs are also sometimes called "variable-price parking" or "demand-based parking." The way it works is that the city monitors how full on-street parking spaces are, then adjusts parking meter prices with a goal of keeping between 70 and 90 percent of spaces occupied. On blocks where less than 70 percent of meters are occupied, hourly rates are made cheaper. On blocks where it is very difficult to find an open space, hourly rates are made more expensive. Meter rates also vary by the time of day and the day of the week.

Express Park was initially implemented in downtown Los Angeles in 2012. The program manages about 6,300 curb parking spaces there. Initial expansions include this week's roughly 500 spaces in Westwood and about 900 spaces in Hollywood, expected around 2017. The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee recently directed L.A.'s Transportation Department (LADOT) to look into accelerating Express Park implementation in Hollywood, Venice, the USC area, and eventually to all parking meters citywide.

Features implemented in Westwood include:

    • In-Ground Sensors: Sensors have been installed to detect which spaces are occupied vs. available.
    • Parking Management System: The city collects data from sensors, meters, and lots, and the data is analyzed to manage the system.
    • Message Signs: Three electronic message signs (on Weyburn, Westwood, and Gayley) offer motorists real-time information about parking availability.

Initially, people parking in Westwood are unlikely to see dramatic changes in the next couple weeks. The overall parking system will be monitored by LADOT, with incremental hourly rate increases or decreases being phased in over time.

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