Madison parking meters accepting credit cards again

Glitch kept cards from working for two days
Madison parking meters accepting credit cards again

Workers and visitors in downtown Madison can use credit cards to park on the street again, now that a problem with the city’s multi-space parking meters has been fixed.

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.

However, parking utility engineer Bill Putnam told WISC-TV Friday morning that the problem had been resolved.

Putnam said Thursday the problem was wireless communication between the meters and AT&T’s network wasn’t working properly.

“We’ve been investigating getting on a private network through AT&T, which would reduce those kinds of inconsistencies,” 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 city has 90 multi-space 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 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.