As of now, it’s possible for motorists using muni-meters in down town Huntington village to pay at the town’s electronic parking meters in some spots — but still get a ticket.
That’s because of a glitch the town has issued no public warnings about or, thus far, been able to fix completely.
Yesterday, A.J. Carter, a spokesman for Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, acknowledged the problem, saying that a town parking enforcement agent had brought it to the town’s attention over the summer.
The town, he said, thought the issue it had been addressed.
Last week, a motorist — OK, it was me — paid for one hour of parking at a muni-meter on Main Street, west of New York Avenue. Ticket stub in hand, I walked a few steps away — but stopped and turned around to make sure I’d locked the car.
To my surprise, a town parking enforcement agent was already at the vehicle, leaning over to scan the registration sticker on the windshield.
“Hello!” I cried, waving the muni-meter receipt.
“Good thing you saw me,” the agent replied, politely. “Or I would have written a ticket.’’
He carried a tablet-looking device, which, he said, showed that payment for the space had expired — even though the receipt in my hand clearly showed otherwise.
The problem, Carter explained, is that the town uses two vendors — one for the meters and one for the agent’s ticket-generating machine — that were having trouble “talking” to each other.
To compound matters, town muni-meters now say motorists can take their receipts with them, rather than return to vehicles and putting them on the dashboard.
So if the ticket machine said one thing and the receipt a motorist carried away said something else, wham, that could be a $25 ticket.
When the town first put in the muni-meters, one vendor, Parkeon, collected and conveyed meter payment information to a second vendor, Breckford, which traffic agents use to generate tickets.
The transfer seemed to go smoothly via a 2G telecommunications network that served downtown Huntington, Carter said. But in late summer — and without the town’s knowledge, Carter said — the 2G network was replaced by a 3G network (and later, in some spots, 4G), disrupting the flow of information from the meter to parking enforcement equipment.
“We realized we had a problem and started to double-check,” Carter said. Officials directed parking enforcement agents to look at the Breckford equipment — and a Parkeon app on a cellphone, which could be refreshed to show the most up-to-date meter-payment information — before issuing a citation.
Still, Carter acknowledged, the town has heard from “a handful” of motorists who were ticketed, but found relief after going to the town with proof that they’d paid the muni-meter. Aside from those motorists, he said, the town had taken no independent measure of how many tickets had been improperly issued.
Nor had the town — which put the meters in place as a revenue enhancer — made public that it was an issue at all.
“We believed we’d corrected this,” Carter said, adding that the town wanted to collect fines levied fairly. “We’ll have to look into it one more time.”
Until then, hang on to those muni-meter receipts.