parking meterThink parking in downtown Los Angeles is confusing now? Just wait until some meters start charge rates that vary based on demand.

A pilot program approved the City Council of Los Angeles seeks to impose logic to radically alter the way meter prices are set in the city's center. City officials say this "dynamic pricing" could reduce the time drivers spend circling the block for open parking spots, reduce traffic congestion and lessen air pollution. The so-called dynamic pricing is LA's latest attempt to improve downtown parking.

The dynamic pricing system, called ExpressPark and run by Streetline, will use sensors and other technology to measure demand at 6,000 sidewalk meters and 7,500 spots in public parking structures. The cost to park will be based on demand for each spot at various times throughout the day. In San Francisco, the ExpressPark technology was deemed unsuitable and replaced by a competing system. Bill Ford is an investor in Streetline.

LA city officials hope to have collected sufficient data to begin charging variable rates in April of 2012.