Credit cards still won’t work in downtown Madison meters

Network error means meters are coin-only at least until Friday
Credit cards still won’t work in downtown Madison meters

Workers and visitors in downtown Madison will need coins to park on the street, as a problem with the city’s multispace parking meters continues.

The credit card function became unreliable Wednesday morning and, by Thursday, the city had put stickers on 82 of its downtown meters telling people they were coin-only.

The problem is that the wireless communication between the meters and AT&T’s network isn’t working properly.

“We’ve been investigating getting on a private network through AT&T, which would reduce those kinds of inconsistencies,” parking utility engineer Bill Putnam said.

The vendor that installed the parking meters put them on a public network instead of a private one, meaning they compete with other traffic and sometimes have trouble making a connection, said Jim Greer, an AT&T spokesman.

The city said traffic on AT&T’s towers can occasionally slow down the system. The problem also happened last August, said Tom Woznick, the city’s parking operations manager.

The errors may be fixed by Friday, but may take until next week to repair, Putnam said.

The city has 90 multispace meters downtown, and 82 of them run wirelessly. The other eight, at the Buckeye Lot near State Street, have a local connection and are unaffected.

While city staffers said the problem was rare, some downtown visitors said they had encountered the issue before.

“I’ve gotten many a ticket from not being able to use my credit card down here,” said Lucy Vondra, who shops and visits clients regularly downtown. “My half-hour lunch break turns into a $20 parking ticket.”

WISC-TV saw several people who were confused over the coin-only operation Thursday.

The meters already don’t allow dollar bills because of the solar panel-operated machines don’t produce enough energy to collect cash, Woznick said.

Madison’s climate means bills often get wet and would jam the machine, he added.