For the roughly 200,000 Chicago drivers registered with the city's pay-for-parking mobile app, the old system of paying at a box and walking a receipt back to the dashboard may seem "so yesterday," but as some users of the country's largest parking app have learned, there are still bugs to be worked out.
In at least three instances provided to NBC Chicago, drivers who used the ParkChicago app to pay for parking received an erroneous ticket on their windshield. They had the receipts to prove they were covered, but for some reason the city's ticket writers failed to get that information.
"It's their job," Mount Prospect resident Greg Ignatius said. "I mean, if I'm a citizen and I'm expected to know this app and figure this out, it's their job. They should know that."
For Ignatius, the road between his home and doctors' offices at both Rush and Northwestern hospitals is a well-traveled one after his diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease five years ago. He said he embraced the ParkChicago technology with open arms for its ease of use and efficiency. But two erroneous tickets written within months of each other -- one by a police officer and one by a Department of Finance parking aide -- gave him pause.
"The warning bell went off that they're not trained," Ignatius said. "And if they're not trained, if they don't know, it's going to keep happening."
Ignatius had proof his car was paid up for both parking spots at the exact moment the tickets were written. The city acknowledged that neither ticket should have been written; both were wiped out. A spokesperson for the Department of Finance explained that the errors were caused by ticket writers failing to enter a "W" for the wheelchair icon on Ignatius' "Persons with Disabilities" plate.
The ParkChicago website instructs drivers with wheelchair icons to enter the "W" in front of the digits that follow it. However, a spokesperson for ParkChicago told NBC5 Investigates the "W" is not necessary, and a ticket writer who dropped it should have still been able to see the plate was covered via payment on the app. That raises the question: did the ticket writers even check to see if payment was made?
That same question occurred to Chicago driver Willy Shives last month. On a Friday night, Shives parked in a spot in Pilsen and paid via ParkChicago for parking from 9:31pm to 10pm. He still got a ticket, written by a SERCO parking enforcement contractor at 9:38pm.
"It was just very upsetting. Within 10 minutes there was a ticket on my car," Shives said.
Did that ticket writer check to see if Shives' car was covered by app payment? The city spokesperson said the ticket writer says he did check, but the department acknowledged it could not provide electronic proof of that and agreed the ticket should not have been given to Shives. It was dismissed.
Last July, the city acknowledged some 370 tickets were issued erroneously to drivers who had paid via the app. After that rocky rollout, however, ParkChicago said the number of erroneous tickets is a "minute" amount. He said the process is successful and effective for the vast amount of drivers who use it.