WASHINGTON — As an inspector general’s report uncovers widespread confusion within the District of Columbia surrounding broken parking meters, one solution to the problem is growing in popularity: ParkMobile.
Yes, there’s an app for that.
You can sign up for an account, register your credit card and then then you’re ready to go.
“ParkMobile has been a godsend for broken meters,” says Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland.
“Our research has showed that people will pay for the meter, if they’re given the opportunity to do so.”
DPW writes the vast majority of parking tickets in the city, but the system is not perfect.
Every week, WTOP Ticketbuster receives complaints from drivers who receive tickets for spots that they paid for with ParkMobile.
In many cases, the driver is at fault.
In order to avoid a ticket, drivers must accurately input their license plate and ParkMobile zone number into the app. The zone number is usually a four or five-digit code that can be found on a sticker placed on the meter.
While the app features a map feature, it’s not clear whether the map is more accurate than the stickers.
When drivers are at fault, usually they entered their plate incorrectly or put in the incorrect zone number.
“When a parking officer gets to a block, he’ll punch in the zone number and it will come up with a list of all the vehicles who have paid for that zone,” says Howland.
But, there are some cases where the ticket writers were at fault. In these case, ParkMobile receipts provide a crucial paper trail to demonstrate that the driver legally parked in the spot.
“The issue with ParkMobile is that it’s a cellular phone system. Just as there are dropped calls, we sometimes have telecommunication problems with our handhelds,” adds Howland.
“Sometime the signal doesn’t go through as cleanly as it should and a vehicle will be missed,” he says.
Another known issue is known as a lag effect. It takes several minutes from the time you begin a session to transmit the data to the ParkMobile database, then upload that information back to the handheld machines that print out tickets.
In a few cases, drivers have received a ticket within minutes of them paying for a spot.
“It doesn’t happen often, but because there is a lag, there is a chance an officer pulls up the list before your vehicle gets uploaded to our system,” says Howland.
In most cases, WTOP Ticketbuster has been able to work quickly with DPW to identify the error, and get the ticket voided without requiring the driver to fight it.
When the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) writes the ticket, the agency will not void it. The agency has a firm policy that all drivers must adjudicate the ticket at the DC DMV, regardless of how obvious or blatant the error appears.
In those situations, ParkMobile offers drivers a paper trail to adjudicate their ticket that is impossible with coins.
As long as the ParkMobile zone numbers match between your receipt and the ticket, the license plates match and the time you paid for is covered based on the ticket, then you should win your case.
ParkMobile and credit card receipts tend to help drivers prove their case before a hearing examiner.
But as WTOP Ticketbuster has reported, it’s very important that if you fight a ticket, to print up the proper receipt known as a “Transaction Detail” report. Without the proper receipt, the DMV will find your liable for lack of sufficient evidence.