Parking Ticket Errors Reveal Sacramento’s Smart Meters Aren’t Always that Smart

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SACRAMENTO -- It’s a fact of downtown life that people who live there need to park there and people who park there need to pay.

"You gotta pay and yeah, there’s a lot of stipulations to parking," said Sacramento resident Tanya Azar.

But if you’ve gotten a parking ticket recently at one of Sacramento’s newer smart meters there’s a chance the smart reader got it wrong.

For instance, in a March 2017 hearing officers dismissed nearly 1,000 parking citations. In October, they dismissed more than 800.

"We want to rebuild that consumer confidence," said Matt Eierman, the city's parking manager.

Eierman says there is no one problem with the smart meters that caused the spike in erroneous parking citations. Rather, he says, it's growing pains as the city adopted the technology to give more people more options to pay for parking.

"I mean we’re upward of over 5 million transactions a year that we’re processing through 5,800 parking meters," Eierman said. "So it’s a relatively small amount of transactions that errors occurred. And believe me, when we’re doing a transition like that, we give the consumer the benefit of the doubt."

In one example there was an interruption of cell phone service that billed a parker’s card for their space. The meters just never got the message that they had been fed, so they read the cars parked there as unpaid and tickets were issued in error.

The findings outlined in a city auditor's report will be presented to city council on Tuesday.

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