New system at tech ramp experiences glitches
The Tech Village parking ramp has run into some technical problems, literally. The new automated pay-on-foot parking system, in the Tech Village ramp owned by the city, has proved the learning curve in Duluth is steeper than anticipated. Greater ...
The Tech Village parking ramp has run into some technical problems, literally.
The new automated pay-on-foot parking system, in the Tech Village ramp owned by the city, has proved the learning curve in Duluth is steeper than anticipated.
Greater Downtown Council President Kristi Stokes said, people have described the system as "terrible, a train wreck and a disaster."
The system, which has only been in place for a week, has customers carry their parking ticket with them as they shop, and then check out with a computer as they leave.
"This first week has been a training week," said Joe Miller, facilities operations supervisor for the city.
"We have sent people back to the machines (instead of checking out with the parking attendant), and we have probably ticked some people off," he said.
As a result, Miller said the staff at the ramp has had to endure a tremendous amount of abuse. "It's a classic case of 'don't kill the messenger,'" he said.
Admittedly, the first go round might be tricky. Retailers in the Tech Village, like Wayne Torke, owner of Torke Weihnachten, are especially concerned about their senior customers.
"It is difficult enough for older customers to use credit cards. This system is just another hurdle hampering people from shopping downtown," Torke said.
To find out if the system is as unwelcoming as some claim, the Budgeteer ran an experiment with a man in his mid-70's, who knew nothing of the new system. He approached the ramp entrance and was greeted by an automated instructional message, on a continuous loop.
Above the gate was a sign, explaining further the new system, step-by-step. Our older gentleman took a ticket, and placed it in his pocket, not on the dashboard or under the visor, and continued to his parking space.
After a cup of coffee in the Tech Village, the man made his way back through the skywalk, to his vehicle. He stopped at the skywalk level of the ramp and inserted his ticket, just as instructed.
Some of the buttons on the screen were a little hard to see, but other than that, the driver had no problem paying for his parking, using a credit card.
As he exited the ramp, he did drive past the drop off box and pulled through to the ticket window, the only part of the process that gave him trouble. There was an attendant in the booth, though, who accepted his ticket, lifted the gate, and told him how to do the exit part next time.
The driver, who said he prefers ramps, had no trouble with the system and didn't find it confusing. He said he would park there again.
The city has no intention of pulling the plug on the new system. The heavy signage, as well as an attendant and constant updates to the pay-machine are all things the city is doing to make the experience more friendly.
"I have signs coming out of my ears over there," said Miller.
But despite Miller's "second-time's-a-charm" attitude, Stokes and other business owners in the area are holding their breath.
"People are getting so frustrated from the get-go, they're saying 'We're not coming back,'" said Stokes.
Miller is confident that in the Age of Technology, with all the cell phones and wireless Internet, Duluthians will come around to the idea. "It's the Tech Village for crying out loud...," he said. "Technology is supposed to be their thing."