UPDATE 5/18: The city of West Palm Beach issued the following statement regarding the meters.
Late last week, some of the parking meters in the 500 block of Clematis Street experienced a technical malfunction that came to light when parkers reported that approximately five single space meters had reset prematurely. As soon as the malfunction was brought to our attention, Parking Administration asked our support contractor to disable the sensors associated with the meters and, then, research and investigate the issue. Based on the information our Parking Administration Department has at this time, we believe the problem is isolated only to the 500 block of Clematis Street and are investigating the cause of the malfunction. Additionally, we are conducting an assessment of all meters with sensor technology to see whether the issue extends beyond the meters on the 500 block of Clematis Street.
Right now, the City of West Palm Beach operates 1400 meters with “Smart Meter” technology. 200 of those meters incorporate sensor technology, which tracks the entry and the exit of a parking space equipped with this meter. The sensor technology has also been installed along the 200 block of Clematis, 500 block of Clematis, 700 block of Rosemary, and 300 block of Quadrille. This technology has been incorporated as a means to collect information on parking turnover, which is useful in developing future parking strategies. To our knowledge, this is the only time that we have experienced this technical malfunction in the two years that we have utilized this technology.
Please be advised that when a vehicle pulls out of a parking space with the smart meter technology, the meter will reset to zero, showing no additional time left on the meter and making it available for the next customer to pay for parking services, a standard industry practice adopted by the City of West Palm Beach upon the meters’ installation. Additionally, the City gives all parkers at Smart Meter spaces a 5-minute grace period, once their paid parking period has expired.
The City has overturned the tickets of the individuals who we know have been affected by this malfunction. If you believe you may have received a ticket in error, please contact Parking Administration at (561) 822-1500. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our valued customers. For more information about City of West Palm Beach parking, please visit: www.wpb.org/parking.
ORIGINAL STORY: There are new parking meters in downtown West Palm Beach and they are very different that the meters we’re all used to feeding.
These new high-tech meters have caused some old-fashioned tempers to flare, mainly if you use coins to feed the meter.
“We had some equipment malfunctions, as technology does sometimes," said Ed Davis, Parking Systems Administrator for the City of West Palm Beach.
Davis says the newer meters -- which are mostly located on the 500 block of Clematis St. -- are equipped with a sensor on the street-side of the device.
“So that when one person pays for parking and they leave, the other meter resets to zero. So the other person can pay for their parking," he said.
However, in the past few weeks, those particular meters have been glitching and are resetting in the middle of someone being parked there. People are coming back to their cars to find a ticket instead.
“There’s some anomaly about why it’s resetting. It could be motion from the trolleys -- we're not really sure," he said.
Technicians are currently working to fix the meters but the issues have already affected downtown patrons like Sean Scott and his customers at his Subculture Coffee shop.
"It's frustrating," he said. “I even parked on a Saturday. And I swore I was in there for 10 minutes, and I had 20 minutes. I came out and had a $27 ticket.”
Add to that, Scott says no one seems to even know about the sensors in the first place.
“When systems are in place, the technology has to be consistently working and this is spotty. So it’s double the frustration. Not only do they have a feature they didn’t know about it, but it works intermittently," he said.
And that’s why Davis says he’s launching a new campaign to keep drivers in the loop.
“A public relations push to make sure that we’re transparent with everything we do with parking, so nothing is a secret," he said.
The city is also issuing refunds and Davis encourages anyone who is having an issue with a meter ticket, to contact their office at 561-822-1500.
“If anybody out there has an issue that felt like they’ve unjustly been issued a citation, please bring it to my office," he said.
The city is also temporarily shutting the reset feature down until the meters are fixed.
“We expect it to be resolved within another month or so," Davis said.
At the end of the day, business owners want their customers to get what they pay for — not more with a ticket.
“It should always err on the side of the customer, for the benefit of our city," said Scott.