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Problems Plague Uptown Pay-By-Cell Parking System

Parking citation. Photo: Jennifer Lang

A new technology to let parkers pay the meter via smart phone in Uptown Charlotte hit a snag that nearly led to its abandon by city officials. They're now hopeful they 've fixed the problem that led to dozens of erroneous tickets.

No need to ever scrounge for change! That was the promise when the city launched "ParkMobile" in March. A quick phone call or tap of a mobile app would feed the meter at any Uptown street spot.

The plan was to do a big promotional push for the system a month or so after the March launch. But there were problems right off the bat, says Charlotte Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Doreen Szymanski.

"We were hoping it would run a little more smoothly than it did," says Szymanski.

The payment information wasn't updating into the handheld devices used by parking enforcement to issue tickets. During ParkMobile's first month Uptown, 26 people - six percent of the total - were wrongly ticketed. Szymanski says it was nearly enough to make her pull the plug on the system.

"I think the percentage should be close to zero all the time, because you should have that information and you shouldn't be issuing erroneous tickets," says Szymanski.

Full-disclosure here: I got one of those tickets last month and had it dismissed after submitting an appeal online.

Syzmanksi says the same was true for more than 100 erroneous tickets issued since ParkMobile launched. She also says the city has found a solution: Parking enforcers must now log onto a website and check for ParkMobile payments in real-time before issuing a citation.

Szymanski says the city would like to keep offering ParkMobile if it can work out the kinks. Paying the meter without a pocketful of change is clearly popular.

In its first four months Uptown, more than 3,000 people have used ParkMobile