Hank Investigates: Parking Meter App

NEWTON, MASS. (WHDH) - When optometrist Terry Noel walked back to her car parked on this Newton street, yup, there it was.

Terry: “I go, what is this? I’m not paying this ticket, I didn’t deserve this ticket!”

I know, that’s what all parkers think, but Terry thought she had good reason to be baffled.

Terry: “I used the app!”

The City of Newton is high-tech now, offering an app to pay parking meters. Download it on your phone, put in a zone and space number, and you can pay with your credit card. Hurray. No more scrambling for quarters.

Then parking enforcement officers using a handheld gizmo confirm the meter’s been paid.

Nicole Freedman, Newton Director of Transportation: “It’s the technology of the future and it’s working very very well.”

But the system didn’t work for Dr. Noel. Her receipt proves she paid for parking until 6pm, but look: Her ticket was issued at 5:01! She had 59 minutes left!

Terry: “I just didn’t understand why this would happen!”

Yeah, we didn’t either and when we tried to find out, we were surprised to find officials had no idea!

Officials speculate she could have entered the wrong space number. She says she’s sure she didn’t.

Terry: “I double checked it and everything was correct.”

Or, officials admit, maybe the enforcement person entered wrong numbers or the electronic gizmo malfunctioned. That, however, no one can be sure of.

Nicole Freedman, Newton Director of Transportation: “You’ll always have a small percentage of human error or other type of error.”

How often are there errors like that? The city says it only knows when someone appeals, but we found Newton only recently started counting!

And in the first month, an app appeal was submitted on average every 3 days.

Why did those errors happen? We found Newton doesnt keep track of that! City officials insist it doesn’t matter, if you have a receipt showing you paid for the time when the ticket was issued, it will be dismissed.

Nicole Freedman, Newton Director of Transportation: “Our goal in the city is to make sure if an error is ever made, that we correct that.”

Dr. Noel’s ticket was thrown out, but now she asks herself one question every time she pays to park:

Terry: “Am I going to get a ticket?”

Now, after our story, Newton says it will work on ways to track app errors, and encourages parkers to complain if they have a problem.

Are you angry about an app ticket in your community? Email me: tellhank@whdh.com

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