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Parking Meter App Users Wrongly Ticketed Hundreds of Times, City Says

By Mike Brockway | July 7, 2014 5:20am
 CPM workers install a ParkChicago sign in the South Loop.
CPM workers install a ParkChicago sign in the South Loop.
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The Expired Meter.com

CHICAGO — The city's highly touted new pay-by-phone parking meter app is being rolled out across the city, but hundreds of drivers have been ticketed even after correctly using the app to pay their meters.

City officials confirm that 317 drivers using the recently released ParkChicago pay-by-phone app have reported receiving tickets for an expired-meter violation — even though there was still time on the meter — in the first two months since the app's rollout began in May.

Chicago Parking Meters spokesman Scott Burnham said only a small percentage of parkers who used the app have gotten tickets, although he didn't say how many times the app had been used overall to pay meters.

Mike Brockway details what the city is doing to remedy the glitch:

The city has issued 81,868 expired-meter tickets to all parkers citywide since the app became available, although most of those went to parkers using the pay boxes on the street.

The ParkChicago app debuted to great fanfare in a West Loop pilot test in mid-April. It allows drivers to use their Android or iOS smartphones to pay their parking meter without having to walk to the parking meter paybox.

The app was first used on a limited number of streets, but should be available citywide by the end of the summer, officials said. It is available in the West Loop and in parts of the North and Northwest sides. More than 3,600 people downloaded the app within three days of its launch.

Brett Gordon was one of the ParkChicago users improperly ticketed for an expired meter while enjoying dinner in River North recently.

"I bought an hour, extended it while I was out, and when I came back, there was a ticket," explained an irate Gordon. "I don't have time to fight a ticket. It's a horrible annoyance."

Gordon is now gun-shy about using the app.

"I've been leery to use it again," he said. "Since then I've just gotten paper receipts from the meter."

According to Burnham, any time police officers and parking enforcement come across a car parked in a metered space without a meter receipt on the dashboard, they're supposed to check the ParkChicago database using smartphones, handheld computers or police computers.

But one source within the city's Department of Finance said there have been problems with the speed in which the app takes to update the database used to verify a parker is paid up. It can sometimes take up to 15 minutes, which is more than enough of a time gap for a car to be mistakenly ticketed, the source said.

Burnham said the city and CPM are working together to solve these enforcement glitches. The city has thrown out all expired-meter tickets erroneously issued to ParkChicago users; no hearing is required to invalidate a ticket.

"The good news is that anyone who has received a disputed ticket is able to have it immediately dismissed over the phone," Burnham said. "The city is currently doing this so anyone who has been incorrectly issued a ticket can take care of it with a single phone call and does not have to go through the traditional administrative process or attend a hearing. That's because ParkChicago provides email receipts that detail all transactions, making it easy to determine if any tickets were mistakenly issued."

Drivers mistakenly ticketed while using ParkChicago should call 877-242-7901 to report their problem.

CPM said the installation of 42,000 new signs needed to complete the citywide rollout of ParkChicago will be finished by the end of the summer.

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