CHICAGO (CBS) — Why is the city handing out tickets to thousands of people for expired meters – even though there’s still time left on the clock?
The CBS 2 Investigators dove into a convenient way to pay for parking that comes with a costly catch. And CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker has discovered a possible fix.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Allen Feuerstein.
Feuerstein is among the many drivers frustrated by the ParkChicago app, which is supposed to make paying for parking more convenient.
“You do something right and then you still get penalized,” he said.
Recently on a night out to dinner, Feuerstein parked and paid. As instructed, he put in his license plate number and confirmed payment.
But he came back to the car because he had forgotten something, and discovered but that he still got a ticket at 8:53 p.m. – 25 minutes after the meter started.
Feuerstein got lucky – he found the enforcement officer.
“I kind of challenged her with what’s going on,” Feuerstein said. “She pulled up the license. She pulled up the screen.”
Feuerstein took a picture of her device that showed “no results found” for his license plate that made it look like he didn’t pay. But he pulled up his app and pointed out that there was a countdown from when he had fed the meter at 8:28 p.m.
When he showed the enforcement officer he still had 37 minutes left on the countdown, she canceled the ticket. He said she admitted there could have been a problem with her device.
“So when I challenged her, I said, ‘Well…’ and she made the comment that they’re aware that it doesn’t always get updated – maybe for five minutes,” Feuerstein said.
If the system doesn’t work, guess who gets the ticket. We do. As much as $65 a pop.
Much of that money goes to Chicago Parking Meters, or CPM, a private group of investors that leased the parking meter system from the city back in 2008. Last year, the investors pocketed $49 million dollars of the $132 million the company took in.
Tucker tried to talk to CPM managers, but it is not possible to get past security in the office high rise.
Tucker also sent a copy of Feuerstein’s screen shot and info from his receipt to the company. The response for that from the managers of ParkChicago was, “In rare instances, sometimes wireless connectivity between a parking enforcement official’s tablet and the main database runs slow.”
Here’s what that means in English, as put Illinois Institute of Technology professor and IT expert Jeremy Hajek: “Their device may be off line or in an area with a poor cell reception,”
ParkChicago app users have been tweeting about problems with the app.
In June, a user tweeted: “Ticketing cars with 30 minutes left on their meter. 4th ticket in last year”
In July, a user tweeted, “Got another $65 parking citation even though I still had time left on the meter.”
And as recently as August, a user tweeted, “I used your app and still got a ticket.”
These problems are nothing new. CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reported three years ago on problems similar to Feuerstein’s.
At that time, 3,279 tickets had been dismissed because they were incorrectly issued. Since then, there have been more – an additional 4,279 – for a total of nearly 7,500 dismissed tickets since the app launched in 2014.
According to Hajek, there is a solution. He says Park Chicago should contact all wireless providers “make sure all the zones where traffic enforcement is being done have adequate wireless connectivity.”
If you contested a parking app ticket but went ahead and paid it while you waited for a response from the city, Chicago may still owe you money.
The city owes about $3,400 to 58 drivers who didn’t deserve a parking app ticket. You should try and get your money back.