Nearly half of downtown Detroit's parking pay stations are broken but city promises a fix soon

DETROIT (WXYZ) - There are new developments in a 7 Action News Investigation about those parking stations in downtown Detroit that were failing resulting in a lot of people getting bogus parking tickets. The problem has gotten worse, much worse, but a fix is on the way.

We first exposed this problem last year after a slew of complaints from viewers. The issue, we reported, was that batteries in the pay stations were dying and the city didn't have replacements.

Now the problem is even more widespread. The city has taken nearly half of the pay stations out of commission because of failed batteries. But a city official says the stations will soon be one hundred percent operational again.

"Quite a few (pay stations) went down all at the same time," said Shawny Deberry, director of Detroit's Municipal Parking Department.

Deberry says about 80 of the city's 176 parking stations have been down for a month because so many batteries failed at once. They have signs taped on the pay stations saying  "out of order", and those non-working units have cost the city about 80 thousand dollars so far in lost revenue. But Deberry says a new shipment of batteries is coming this week, enough to replace batteries in all 176 downtown pay stations.

Meanwhile the city is putting new heads on single parking meters in the downtown area.

They are solar powered smart meters, with 9 volt batteries that Deberry says will be more reliable.

"So the issues that we may have with batteries today, that issue should go away as we replace more of the single space meters with these solar based meters," said Deberry.

Many Detroiters also complained that the downtown pay stations are too complicated.

The 7 Action News Investigators tested some of the new smart meters along Woodward Avenue South of Warren to see whether they are more user friendly than the old pay stations.

The first thing we noticed is that the glass is cloudy on some of the meters making it hard to read the instructions. The new smart meters take credit cards, and we had a little trouble figuring out which way the credit card is supposed to be pushed into the reader.

The smart meters we tried said they accepted American Express, Visa and MasterCard.  But when we tried an American Express card it did not work.  The message on the meter was "not accepted error."

When 7 Action News told Deberry about the American Express issue she said the meters do not accept American Express and the AMEX logos should not have been on them. We also alerted Deberry to the issue with cloudy glass on some of the new meters.

About an hour later a crew from the Municipal Parking Department was out removing American Express logos from meters. They told 7 Action News that the problem with the glass was condensation forming inside the meter head and that they would notify the manufacturer of the problem.

Ray Waters, who was trying one of the new smart meters for the first time said he was pleased with the newer technology.

"I was confused by some of the other pay stations, they were smarter than I was I think.  But this seems to be very simple and works well," Waters said.

While the older pay stations are marked "out of order", drivers don't have to put money in to park, but the parking time limits are still being enforced.

Deberry said meter enforcement people have a way of telling how long you've been parked at a pay station even if the station itself is out of order.

"(It's) Something called electronic chalking within our hand held technology that we use to write the tickets," Deberry said.



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