OUT-OF-SERVICE, OOPS OUT-OF-TIME: DISTRICT FIELDS 175,000 BROKEN PARKING METER COMPLAINTS
Meter Outages Comprise 82% Of Service Call Volume To DDOT’s Switchboard
WASHINGTON, D. C. (Monday, August 26, 2013) – More than 175,000 service requests and complaints concerning broken, out-of-service, or inoperable parking meters were fielded last year by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT). That’s a staggering average of 579 out-of-order parking meter complaints every day the parking meters are running full tilt, which is six days a week, estimates AAA Mid-Atlantic. Equally frustrating, on-the-fritz parking meter complaints constitute more than three-fourths of all service calls to DDOT. Oops. Motorists are still ticketed if they dare park at one.
As a whole, out-of-service parking meters service requests comprised eight out of ten (82.3 percent) of the entire number of the service complaints or calls that DDOT received in Fiscal Year 2012, reckons AAA Mid-Atlantic. They are called “SRs” in the city’s lexicon. The Department received a total of 213,117 SRs in FY12, with the lion’s share, 175,537 SRs stemming from non-functioning parking meters. Yet that same year the District issued 1,884,367 parking tickets to motorists, or an average of 7.3 citations per minute, and it collected $92,554,646 in parking ticket revenue, calculates AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“It is unclear how many of those complaints were duplicative with multiple drivers calling about the same parking meter within moments of each other. But that’s the likely explanation for the high-volume complaint level from chafed motorists,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “It proves that motorists have zero tolerance for a non-working parking meter after circling the block to find just one of the 17,000 highly coveted metered parking spaces.”
Let’s do the numbers. Although the District hasn’t publicized what percentage of the parking meters was broken at any given moment, it equates to an average rate of 10 calls for each meter in the city’s inventory. Some drivers complain though they did a good deed, and called in the broken meter,and received a “just in case they give you a ticket” confirmation number, they were very upset when they were still ticketed. Yet it’s a universal frustration that drives motorists to near madness. It’s an emotion palpable enough to inspire that Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) pipe-cutter to the neck of the parking meter moment in Cool Hand Luke. Local bloggers have taken to calling the suppressed desire “metercide.” But it’s against the law. The city says it promptly investigates and verifies all broken parking meter complaints. Heal! Just like that most parking meters automatically patch themselves before a technician arrives on the scene.
To becalm motorists, DDOT provides a 311 mobile app empowering motorists to instantaneously report meter outages without all the hassle. Technology upgrades such as the app and interactive voice response (IVR), lowers the demandfor customer service representatives and “has absorbed approximately 85% of the call demand for broken parking meter reporting,” as detailed in DDOT’s FY 2012 Accountability Report. It’s all about the lost revenue stream, cynics say. The 175,537 requests and calls for meter repairs into DDOT’s switchboard in FY12 compares to 14,775 complaints it fielded about trees, and 8,034 SRs for street lights. DDOT also received 2,293 pothole SRs and 1,623 traffic signal complaints.
Despite the sheer magnitude of calls pouring into DDOT and to the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center or 311 concerning on-the-blink parking meters, DDOT reports show that the average percentage of parking meters working daily was 99.19 percent in FY10, and 99.53 percent in FY11. In FY12, DDOT closed an astonishing 99.98 percent of the parking meter service calls at warp speed, leaving a paltry sum of 41 defective meter complaints open by the end of the local government’s yearly budget cycle.
Those eye-opening figures were revealed in the testimony of DDOT Director Terry Bellamy during the agency’s FY12 Performance Oversight Hearing before the Council Committee on the Environment, Public Works and Transportation earlier this year. Overall, “the average response time to close SRs in FY12 have dropped by approximately 50% as compared to FY11,” Bellamy explains. To remedy the out-of-service or faulty parking meter woes, the District pro-actively purchased 2,000 “networking smart meters” at a total cost of $1 million during FY12. More smart meters are on their way to the city’s streetscape. The FY14 budget includes a $10,000,000 allotment for new parking meters.
Back in FY09 coin-fed parking meters still dotted city streets. That year the District reportedly received 142,000 complaints about on-the-fritz parking meters, although 74 percent of the older model parking meters were designed to self-correct themselves. DDOT said that total included “duplicatecomplaints about the same meter.” In 2008, DDOT reportedly took in 116,354 calls about broken meters. This pales in comparison to the 89,840 non-working parking meter complaints the city got in 2005 and to the 3,652 inoperative parking meter complaints the cityprocessed way back in 1997, as chronicled in The Washington Post.
By 2010, the District was spending nearly $1.4 million a year on average to repair its aging inventory of parking meters. Fed up, this became the city’s catalyst to implement and install a new generation of high-tech multi-space parking meters and modernistic solar-powered coins-or-cards parking meters. Right out of The Jetsons, drivers could pay for parking on the new-fangled parking meters with their smartphones and even receive notices when the futuristic parking meter is about to expire. Motorists have to fork over a pretty penny to park at the new-age parking meters. Back in 2010, the District also raised its parking meter rates to $2 an hour on 86 percent of the parking meters in the city (that’s 14,749 upgraded metered parking slots in premium zones). Although the city charges 75 cents an hour at each of its remaining 2,408 metered spaces (14 percent), it also increased its parking enforcement hours in 2010.
Motorists using a credit card pay 45 cents for each Parkmobile transaction by phone, up from 32 cents, in 2012. The transaction fee covers the credit-card processing charge and other add-ons. Parkmobile Wallet transactions are cheaper (30 cents), and the system reportedly has 400,000 local subscribers. Pay-by-cell-phone transactions increased by 25 percentage points during FY12, accounting for 38 percent of all transactions at parking meters, according to DDOT’s FY12 Performance Accountability Report.
Nowadays, frustrated, bristle-up-the-back motorists can report broken or inoperable parking meters simply by calling the “Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at311,” advises the DDOT, or “completing a service request online using the District government’s Service Request Center.” To do so, parkers should first identify the meter by its unique meter ID number, DDOT advises. “It’s located on the inside of the dome of single-space meters and on the front of multi-space meters.” Next, you should describe the specific problem, such as a coin jam, out of order, flashing fail, out of paper. “A service request will be put into the tracking system, and you should receive a service request number,” DDOT explains.
AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at www.AAA.com .
John Townsend or Lon Anderson
Phone: (202) 481-6820
Contact: Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez