Machine errors account for 40% of EPark issues in Edmonton

Edmonton EPark machines malfunctioning almost 3 times a day: documents
WATCH ABOVE: A Freedom of Information request by Global News has uncovered some interesting numbers about problems with Edmonton's EPark system. Julia Wong reports.

Information obtained by Global News shows that there are machine errors within the city’s EPark meter system close to three times a day.

Global News obtained data through a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request showing that between November 2015 and December 2016 the city logged 2,347 service logs related to the EPark system.

READ MORE: EPark system launched, set to change parking in Edmonton

In 2016, there were 1,912,274 EPark transactions, meaning service logs were submitted for 0.1 per cent of all transactions. Installation of the machines started in October 2015 and the last coin meter was removed in April 2016.

“I think it’s been a fairly smooth transition,” said Brian Murphy, general supervisor for on-street parking for Edmonton’s Parking Services.

READ MORE: New parking system being tested out in Edmonton

“The hardest part obviously is when you put a new payment system in place, our customers need time to adjust to it, as we do.”

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A visual representation of EPark-related service logs recorded by the City of Edmonton.
A visual representation of EPark-related service logs recorded by the City of Edmonton. Global News

Thirty-nine per cent of the service logs, or 927, were machine error, meaning the machine had connection issues with modems or the Internet or there were functional issues with the machines’ keypads, display monitor, printer, coin reader or card reader.

Murphy said that level is acceptable, though he is striving to reduce that percentage to 25 per cent. He said there is a standard procedure whenever there is a machine-related concern, which involves a service person conducting a thorough check and cleaning of the machine’s internal parts then performing a coin and credit card check along with a test receipt.

RELATED: Edmonton’s EPark meters endure rocky rollout

Forty-five per cent of the service logs, or 1,054, were related to human error. That includes customers trying to pay with a card type not accepted by the system, trying to use dirty or damaged coins, lack of awareness that receipts are not automatically generated, general misunderstanding of the transaction process as well as inaccurate input of licence plates and zone numbers.\

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EPark issues broken down by human error and machine error.
EPark issues broken down by human error and machine error. Global News

Murphy said there is a learning curve for customers to adjust to the service; he would like to see that percentage drop to 25 per cent as well.

“When we had the parking meters, you put a coin in, you got your time. The new system says, ‘where are you parking, what zone, put in your plate info, tell me how much time you want and now you can pay.’ A lot of first-time users were using coins first or credit cards first and the machine is not geared for that,” he said.

Murphy said awareness campaigns could help the city better educate residents about how to use the system.

The remainder of the logs, 16 per cent or 366, were general maintenance on the machines, which are serviced four times a year.

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The city also said Global News’ FOI request prompted it to be more proactive about its EPark system.

“It did spur us to start looking at our last year’s performance on the machines and thought we could do better as an annual report,” Murphy said.

“It was part of our performance measurements to prepare an annual report but… we thought we would just hold off until the end of the year. But with this request, we thought we should do it now.”

The annual report will contain service log data as well as information about the functionality of each machine and the frequency of transactions.

Emilio De Mercato uses EPark a couple of times a week and said it has been a mostly positive experience except for one incident.

“It happened to me once that one of the pay machines [was] not working properly. [There was] no hope to make it work so I [gave] up and [left],” he said.

“It would not accept the credit card. It [kept] asking for the credit card, I inserted the card but [it did not] work so I [kept] repeating the operation from the start but it was not functioning. I changed parking and [went] somewhere else… because I could not pay [for] the parking.”
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De Mercato said the high percentage of machine errors could mean something needs to be fixed.

“The human mistakes may be made because the machine is not friendly,” he said.

Cherilyn Adair does not frequently use the EPark system but said she likes the machine.

“You put in your licence plate number, you throw in your cash and you’re good to go,” she said.

“Sometimes people just don’t read instructions or read the fine print. I’ll have a look at this and I’ll go, ‘okay, I’m entering it all correctly’ and I’ll hit enter. If I don’t, my son will come along and say, ‘mom, this is how you do it.’”

Michelle Launio parks downtown at a machine roughly twice a month and said she has had a mix of experiences.

“Sometimes during the winter time, it freezes or it’s slow. Maybe it was approved and I didn’t think it was approved. I paid twice, that has happened before. I couldn’t really see [the screen]. It was slow and fidgety,” she said.
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“I would have to… park somewhere else, and hope the machine wasn’t going to be like that. In consequence, I end up showing up late to my appointment because I spent more time figuring our parking than was necessary.”

Launio said the city should conduct maintenance on the machines more frequently, especially if there are events happening in the downtown core.

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