ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — "This is the single most catastrophic event that's ever happened to my business, including the pandemic," said longtime Royal Oak business owner Lori London about the parking situation on Washington Avenue in front her store, Write Impressions.
Late last year, the city of Royal Oak began using Municipal Parking Services (MPS), a private company, to manage their parking meter services in the city.
But no one 7 Action News spoke to Thursday had anything nice to say about what MPS has delivered so far.
One businessman simply said, "I hate it."
Some of the issues include software glitches.
"I couldn't tell at first what it was and I just assumed someone stole my card," said Bobbie Elston who saw repeated charges for $1.50 on her bank card late last week.
Elston had parked in Royal Oak to grab a bite to eat while she and her husband waited on their kids to get out of school.
By the next day, she noticed "walls and walls" of repeated charges for the $1.50 on her banking app. And the charges did not stop.
"I realized it was the parking company. I was flabbergasted," she told 7 Action News.
Elston said for two days, the "Royal Oak MPS - Purchase Minnetonka MN" continued to appear on her account next to the repeat charges. She tried calling city office after city office and when the charges didn't stop, she had to stop her bank card altogether.
Elston said her husband had to make a trip to the police department to report the issue. They were eventually issued refunds.
"They need to make it work in a way that doesn't rely on the customer doing all the work when they screw up," Elston said.
Royal Oak Police Department Deputy Chief Keith Spencer said there was a software issue that affected about 14 people and they worked with MPS to resolve it and issue the refunds.
Spencer said anyone can report a problem to them.
But the recent glitch is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for business owners.
Along Washington Avenue, the parking meters also require drivers to back into diagonal parking so that MPS machines can read the license plates.
"It's dangerous," said attorney Derrick George of the George Law firm on Washington Avenue.
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"It's going to hinder businesses," attorney Maggie George said, adding that she paid a client's parking ticket when the system read the meter was expired when it wasn't.
Spencer said they haven't had any report of injuries but that they've had a few crashes.
Spencer said the diagonal, back-in parking allows for easier loading for drivers who have packages, as well as better visibility for pedestrians when pulling out of a parking spot.
Another complaint has been the two-hour time limit. No longer can someone add money to the meter after two hours. The vehicle must be moved to another spot.
London said the parking system is pushing people away and she's hoping city officials will end their five-year contract with MPS.
"This is why you have attorneys on staff to get out of this contract and go back to regular parking," London said. "It shouldn't be rocket science to be able to park our car."