Relief may be on horizon for those frustrated with downtown Royal Oak parking system

Posted at 9:04 PM, Jul 03, 2024

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — It seems a lawsuit filed by a Royal Oak resident may have what it took for city officials to acknowledge problems with Municipal Parking Services, the out-of-state company they hired to operate their parking system.

"We don't come down here to eat anymore. It's just not worth it for us," said Nancy Weinert, who is one of a number of people who have been frustrated with the parking system where drivers have to back into the angled parking spots, causing vehicles to cross the center line to reverse into the spaces.

"It stinks. It's horrible trying to back into these parking areas when there's traffic coming," Latanya Davis said. "Now you've got to stop traffic and hope no one comes behind you. It's horrible parking."

In 2023, Rany Zeki Toma filed a lawsuit against the city of Royal Oak alleging that the “autopay” Sentry Mobile app that MPS uses failed to properly apply money, which resulted in parking violations for Toma.

Toma alleged negligence and negligent misrepresentation surrounding the parking system.

downtown royal oak parking problems

The city of Royal Oak looked to lawyers for MPS and Great Northern Insurance, a company MPS hired to insure them, to represent the city in Toma's lawsuit.

But it seems city officials were stunned when MPS directed them to Great Northern Insurance, which refused to represent them in the lawsuit because it was not about a "claim for bodily injury nor property damage," according to the lawsuit the city has now filed against MPS and Great Northern Insurance.

Hear more about parking problems in Royal Oak from an March 2023 report below:

City leader expects Royal Oak’s parking woes will be resolved soon

In their lawsuit, the city is hoping a judge will either order MPS to comply with a number of issues they've been at odds over or allow them to end their relationship with MPS over what they said has been a "breach of contract."

In its lawsuit, the city also acknowledges the "glitches" that people have frequently complained about for a long time.

Two years ago, Bobbie Elston's bank card was hit with so many repeat and inaccurate charges, she had to close the account.

"I couldn't tell at first what it was and I just assumed someone stole my card," Elston told 7 News in 2022.

What should have been one charge for $1.50 turned into 53 repeated charges on Elston's bank card.

VIDEO: Royal Oak parking meter glitch leads to woman being charged 53 times

Parking woes in Royal Oak

"I realized it was the parking company. I was flabbergasted," she said at the time.

7 News Detroit also listened to the frustrations of business owners like Lori London, who has owned and operated Write Impressions in downtown Royal Oak for 34 years.

London was frustrated then and still is having to help customers who are eager to shop at her store but are understandably frustrated with the parking system.

On Wednesday, London said the parking concerns of business owners have been dismissed by city officials for three years.

"We would estimate our traffic to be down about 20 to 25 percent since the initiation of this parking system," London said.

Thankfully, brides and their families are still willing to deal with the parking issues to get their wedding invitations from her store.

One of those loyal customers is Weinert and her husband who picked up their daughter's wedding invitations Wednesday.

"Backing up is insane," she said. "And one time, we got a ticket because we pulled in the wrong way."

London said the city's lawsuit against MPS is three years too late.

"I sit on the DDA. I've been a vocal opponent of this new parking system from day one," London said. "People are going out of business. It's just not sustainable. You just can't constantly have events to drive people to a city when, fundamentally, people actively say they avoid coming to downtown Royal Oak because of the parking. Something has to change."

7 News Detroit reached out to city officials as well as MPS, but it seems no one was available because of the holiday.

Some of the violations that the city of Royal Oak lists in their lawsuit against MPS include people being charged for parking before 11 a.m. when it's supposed to be free and others being charged for parking on Sunday when parking should also be at no charge.