Miami Beach's new high-tech parking system full of glitches, workers claim

Ticket writers claim system costing taxpayers thousands

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach ticket writers claim part of their new parking system that just went online isn't working completely. They also claim that it's costing taxpayers thousands.

For three months now the city has allowed drivers to pay for parking meters by app, by phone or by kiosk. Parking attendants then use electronic handheld devices to read car license plates to verify that the meters have been paid.

Several city employees said the readers don't always work, though. One of them, who would only speak under condition of anonymity, demonstrated.

"Can you do us a favor and check this white bug?" Local 10 Investigative Reporter Ross Palombo asked him. "She has paid."
"We can't do it right now because the system is not working," he said as he showed an error message displayed on the screen.

It's something several employees said they're frequently working with.

"How often does this happen?" Palombo asked.
"This is the third one I got today."
"So, when this machine isn't working, you can't write any tickets?"
"No, no you can't write any."

That may be partially why a recent city memo said Miami Beach parking citation revenue is down more than 10 percent. It also said during the first month the new system was in place, revenue was down $16,000. It was down $69,000 in the second month. Both numbers are compared to last year.

Some parking attendants believe that is because of the citations they couldn't write.

"That's a problem?" Palombo asked.
"It is a problem, and I'm pretty sure the city is losing a lot of revenue on this," he said.

Drivers may also be losing more directly, too. Even though they correctly paid through a working app, the city said 128 people still received parking tickets in the system's first two months. All of the tickets were contested and eventually dismissed.

"Does that concern you?" Palombo asked a frequent parker.
"Yes, it does," Diana Lassel said. "I don't want to sit in a line anywhere and prove it. We rely on the system to work."

City records show that Miami Beach first started working on this new system two years ago at a cost of $280,000. The city also approved another $50,000 just a few months ago to maintain the system.

Parking Director Saul Francis would not comment on camera. His boss, City Manager Jimmy Morales, would not comment either, despite several requests.

"That's the way it is when you're dealing with City Hall," driver Dan Maza said.
"I think it's very bad," driver Karen Valencia added.
"It's frustrating to me," Lassel said. "It seems off balance, those who are paying are helping the city and those who aren't can't be checked."

A city spokesperson said this is all due to glitches of a new system. Local 10 requested several weeks of data about exactly how the devices are functioning. Miami Beach replied with 17 days of statistics. During that time, it said the devices are failing at most 16 percent of the time in any one day. They appear to have failed an average of 8 percent on average over the same time period.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said the city is working on resolving the issues as soon as possible.