Impark exit gate error causes bizarre traffic jam at Calgary parkade

WATCH: A private parking company is feeling the heat after dozens of drivers were trapped while trying to leave a downtown parkade. Tony Tighe reports.

CALGARY – Impark says it’s reviewing emergency procedures after a bizarre parking jam at a downtown Calgary parkade Tuesday night.

Dean Brawn had just finished watching a play at Vertigo Theatre and was leaving the Palliser Square parkade around 10 p.m.

“We got into the exit loop as it starts to come down, and got about half a turn and stopped. We didn’t go anywhere for 25 to 30 minutes,” said Brawn.

He says other drivers in line started honking their horns and some got out of their cars, yelling at people on the ground below.

Brawn got out and walked down the ramp to find the exit gate arms weren’t working.

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He also says it took a while to reach anyone with the emergency call buttons and when someone did answer, only one driver was let out at a time.

“I’m sure there were a hundred people. I don’t know how many cars, but basically it was  lined up to the top of the parkade.”

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“Ten o’clock on a weeknight when theatres and restaurants are letting out–you better be ready, you better have somebody prepared–and if you have help buttons, respond to them,” said Brawn.

Impark Senior Vice President Julian Jones says the computer system controlling the exit gate went offline and no error message was sent to the remote monitoring centre.

By coincidence, the exit booth was empty because staff called in sick, but he says someone at the call centre should have alerted local managers.

“If they had recognized there was such an extent of the problem, we would have been able to deal with it. But for some reason that message wasn’t getting through,” said Jones. "We need to investigate that, no question.”

Eventually one of the drivers stuck in line used their own tools to remove the arms on the exit gates.

Brawn says it isn’t the first time he’s had problems at this exit, and hopes Impark makes changes.