Solar-powered parking meters break down

A new solar-powered parking-meter experiment in North Beach that is meant to encourage more drivers to pay was doing just the opposite Wednesday when two of the four ticket machines broke down and drivers parked for free.

Meanwhile, business owners complained that the system was causing confused motorists to drive away and go elsewhere.

The Department of Parking and Traffic launched a three-month pilot program last week to test four solar-powered, multispace parking meters on one block of Columbus Avenue between Union and Green streets.

The City removed the former coin and parking-pass operated meters in the busy tourist district and installed four new meters for the entire block. The high-tech machines are powered by the sun, accept coins, bills and credit cards, and are connected to an Internet program that keeps track of how much time each of the 40 spots have left.

The system also tracks spots that are vacant through sensors on the ground, which allows parking-control officers to determine when a driver has not paid.

Officers keep track of the information, which updates every 30 seconds, on handheld BlackBerrys. The idea is for officers to save time by checking meter compliance on the mobile devices.

At least that’s the idea. On Wednesday, the Internet program transmitted false information on which vehicles were in compliance. At one point, the program said 32 of the 40 spots were empty, even though the block was full.

Three parking-control officers assigned to the program struggled to enforce meter compliance after the system went awry, directing confused drivers to the working machines and explaining that the problem was caused by bugs in the system.

“This is a process to generate revenue, technically,” said one officer, who didn’t want to be named. “And it’s not going to work.”

Keith Ta, of San Francisco, used one of the working machines, but grumbled about the system meltdown.

“The City was saying they’re losing revenue on these things, but they have a group of employees out here trying to fix it,” Ta said.

One merchant on the block said her business had suffered because the machines are confusing people, who then park elsewhere.

arocha@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

Steven Buss, left, and Sachin Agarwal co-founded Grow SF, which plans to produce election voter guides offering a moderate agenda. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Grow SF: New tech group aims to promote moderate ideals to political newcomers

Sachin Agarwal has lived in San Francisco for 15 years. But the… Continue reading

Most Read