Despite Winterizing Efforts, New Parking Meter Pay Boxes Freezing Up
UPDATE: 11:30 AM
WBEZ is reporting that early this morning there were reports of pay boxes that were still frozen up.
So far this morning, none of the pay boxes we’ve encountered were experiencing any problems.
This seems to be for two reasons. First LAZ crews are getting out and winterizing the machines with lithium grease to prevent freezing (you can feel the residue of the lithium on the buttons). In addition, the sun is out and the temperature is rising.
UPDATE: 9:00 PM
Other local media outlets are reporting that “Roughly 2 percent or 84 of the 4,200 boxes,” were not working due to the cold temperatures.
The truth is, the problem was much larger and systematic in scope than the laughable 2% claimed by LAZ Parking and the city. Based on the 40 some meters we surveyed throughout the past 24 hours, we found 60% to have frozen components at some point during said 24 hours.
In addition, again despite LAZ’s claims to the contrary, there are still pay boxes which are malfunctioning due to the cold weather. A re-check of 20 meters this evening found 7 with frozen buttons. Of course, with the sun setting and temperatures dropping, it’s not a surprise that this is occurring.
Other claims by the Mayor, Dept. of Revenue and LAZ that mechanical breakdowns of this size and scope happened all the time in the past is just pure science fiction. Traditional, single-head meters would never fail as dramatically as the new pay boxes have.
To a lesser degree than today, expect more problems this evening and early tomorrow morning until temperatures warm up into the balmy mid-20′s. Plus, it will take LAZ crews at least another day to check all 4200 pay boxes.
It seems, along with everything else in the city today, Chicago’s new parking meter pay boxes are freezing up too.
While the general consensus has been the 4200 new pay and display parking meters, recently installed by LAZ Parking, are an improvement over the old fashioned single space parking meters, these new machines have never faced a tough Chicago winter.
Grant Gannon and his girlfriend were out having dinner last night and noticed the problem on the northside, near the CTA Brown line stop at Rockwell.
“The buttons for ‘Max’, ‘.25′ and ‘$1′ were frozen solid and unable to be pushed,” explained Gannon. “What’s worse is the green ‘Print Receipt’ button froze too. I tested another box on Rockwell and found the same problem! I was able to mash in the green button but it stuck and wouldn’t pop back out.”
Indeed it’s true.
Of the 30 or so pay boxes we checked, nearly 75% were incapacitated in some way from the extreme temperatures. In some instances, one or two of the machine’s payment buttons were frozen. In one case, all the buttons were frozen solid rendering the machine inoperable.
Operators for LAZ’s customer service recommend reporting the meter and if you get a ticket, use the reference number given to contest your ticket. Hearing officers will have access to the broken meter database and will be able to corroborate your story.
Interesting enough, according to sources within the Department of Revenue, high level DOR officials conveyed their concerns and fears over the performance of the new and untested pay boxes in Chicago’s harsh winter environment to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC and LAZ Parking in late summer. These top DOR managers did not want any embarrassing problems due to winter weather, akin to some of the earlier implementation issues back in March, and a mass outage of hundreds of pay boxes located downtown in May.
The two companies did respond to the DOR’s requests and have been “winterizing” the 4200 pay and display meters throughout the city for the past several weeks with a tentative completion date of January 1, 2010 according to the company’s website.
“CPM is making modifications to its Pay Boxes by installing covers on the credit card and receipt slots,” according to a post on the homepage of the Chicago Meters website. “Before CPM began installing the nearly 4,200 Pay Boxes throughout Chicago, motorists had to remove snow and ice from the City’s old Pay Boxes before operating them. That inconvenience will be a thing of the past. The credit card and receipt slot covers repel snow and ice, making it easier to complete a credit card payment and retrieve a receipt. ”
In addition, larger, more powerful batteries are being installed in each of the machines to insure pay boxes don’t lose power due to the lack of sunlight that recharge internal batteries via solar panels.
Unfortunately, at least in these current conditions where rain, sleet and snow were followed by quickly plummeting temperatures and high winds, many meter pay boxes are literally freezing.
Calls to spokespersons for both CPM and the DOR went unreturned.