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Santa Monica to Consider EV Charging Fees

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

January 13, 2020 -- With electric vehicles eating into parking revenues and boosting charging station costs, Santa Monica is rethinking its policies encouraging their use.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider imposing a fee to use City owned charging stations, which are currently free, as well as charging a $1 per minute "overstay fee" for those who exceed the posted time limit.

The Council also will consider revisiting a program that allows EVs displaying the proper decals to park for free at City parking meters that are losing potential revenues.

"As the demand for EV charging grows and more stations are installed throughout the City, it is increasingly necessary to have a clear strategy to deploy, manage, and reinvest in the City’s EV charging program," staff wrote in their report to the Council.

In addition, staff noted that the rise in the number of EVs parking for free at meters "will contribute to existing parking meter revenue declines, though precise amounts are unknown."

EV use is higher in Santa Monica than in most U.S. cities, with the number of registered vehicles doubling since 2016 to 2,667, or 3.8 percent of all registered vehicles, staff said.

That compares with 1.4 percent of vehicles registered in Los Angeles County and 2.3 percent in the City of San Francisco, according to October 2018 DMV data.

"All indications are this rate of adoption will continue to grow as more models of electric vehicles are offered, the range on these vehicles gets longer, and the technology becomes more affordable," staff wrote.

To accommodate the rapidly increasing use of EVs, the City plans to boost the number of public parking stations from the current 140 to 300 by December.

The increase is expected to dramatically boost the operating costs from $150,000 to $405,000 a year.

Those costs -- which cover utilities, network and warranty fees -- can be reduced by introducing an overstay charge and eventually, a user fee, staff said.

"Building a robust EV charging network would require ongoing operating costs, in addition to capital and staff resources," staff wrote in its report.

Replacing the 55 non-networked stations with networked stations would cost approximately $235,000 for the charging units, excluding installation charges, staff said.

Santa Monica is one of the few cities left that offers free use of EV charging stations.

Los Angeles charges from zero to $2 an hour, West Hollywood between $1 and $2 an hour, and Culver City charges between $2 and $3 an hour, which rises to $4 an hour after the first four hours.

Santa Monica no loner needs to offer free EV charging, staff said.

"Subsidizing the operating costs and offering free public charging helped incentivize early adopters," staff wrote, "however, the EV market is no longer in the nascent phase of the 1990s."

In addition, shifting trips to EVs has a lower priority than shifting trips to transit or active transportation modes such as "biking, walking and scooting," staff said.

"While EVs help improve air quality, they still contribute to traffic congestion and fatal and severe collisions," staff wrote.

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