COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Advancements in technology are impacting just about every area of our lives — communication, healthcare, and transportation.

Parking meters are becoming a thing of the past in Columbus. Drivers are now using mobile apps to pay for spots across the city. Unfortunately, with technology, comes the occasional glitch.

A Columbus man, who didn’t want to appear on camera, reached out to Better Call 4, saying he use the ParkMobile app to pay for a visitor’s spot on Ohio State University’s campus from 7:23 to 8:23 on the morning of May 27. But at 8:11, he received a violation from the OSU’s parking enforcement agency, CampusParc — an $81 ticket.

Then, deja vu — it happened again on June 2. He paid to park at 7:43 A.M. for an hour, and five minutes before his time expired, received another citation.

He told Better Call 4 about it, and we reached out to CampusParc.

A representative, Nikole Thomas, told me she checked with the operations and enforcement teams, and said there are no issues with data transfer for ParkMobile payments to CampusParc’s system.

Taking an even closer look, Thomas said the first citation the man received was due to an incorrect entry of the license plate number into ParkMobile. So, to the enforcement officer, his license plate did not align with the plate number entered into the app.

But the second citation issued was an error by the enforcement officer, and Thomas said it was voided accordingly.

Here’s the response in full:

“I have checked with our operations and enforcement teams, and we are not experiencing any issues with data transfer for ParkMobile payments. We looked into the specifics of the individual who reached out to you to understand why his citations were issued.

The first citation [he] received was due to an incorrect entry of the license plate number into ParkMobile. It is important that customers upload their plate information correctly because their license plate is what is scanned by the technology to ensure they have paid to park. We have no way of knowing someone has paid for their parking if their license plate does not align with the plate number they have entered into ParkMobile.

The second citation issued to [him] was an error by the enforcement officer and was voided accordingly. Although I am not able to see what that specific error was, the citation was voided and the customer did not have to pay it.

 As with any technology (as well as with human beings), errors occur from time to time and we do what we can to make it right. In the case where a customer makes a mistake, if it’s the first time, we will modify a citation to a warning with no fee due as this informs them of what they can do differently to ensure a citation does not occur again.  In the case where there is an officer error, we void the citation. Sometimes these are caught prior to putting a citation on the car, sometimes it is caught in a back-office review, and in either case, we would never penalize customers for known software errors.

As with all wireless applications, there is a very short gap between when an individual hits “go” and when the data feeds back to other connected devices. The Customer Care Associate assumed (incorrectly) that this was the problem. That is a rare occurrence, and if it is found to be the case, we always waive the citation as we can validate proof of payment.” 

ParkMobile

It appears his issues were resolved.

However, six days later, a Columbus woman contacted Better Call 4 with the same issue. This time, under the City of Columbus.

We reached out to both ParkMobile and the city to find out if it is, in fact, a bigger issue. We were told it was not.

The city said it was an isolated problem, an error with how the driver entered her license plate number into the app.

Here’s the response:

Based on a review by the Division of Parking Services, it appears an incorrect license plate number was entered when Ms. Richards paid for parking. The plate entered for payment did not match the plate on the vehicle parked in the spot. As a result, the license plate flagged to the enforcement officer that it was a vehicle that had not paid for parking.

When you park using the ParkColumbus app or the new kiosks, you enter your vehicle’s license plate number. And before you activate your parking session, the app and kiosks show the plate number you entered so you can verify its accuracy. It’s a quick, easy important step.

ParkColumbus app users can set up an account and add their correct license plate number to the account. Then you don’t have to type in your plate number each time you use the app to park. It’s already saved, and you can verify the accuracy before you activate your parking session. Another tip: If you set up an account and add more than one vehicle to it, make sure you are verifying the plate number of the vehicle you are parking with before you start your session.  

The City of Columbus