11 Call For Action investigates: Parking meter problems in downtown Colorado Springs

11 News is taking a closer look at the city's complicated parking system enterprise in this Call For Action investigation.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 5:49 AM MDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 6:12 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - After a slew of parking tickets handed out in error, 11 News is taking a closer look at the city of Colorado Springs’ parking system.

The issue first came to our attention recently when a family alerted us to receiving back-to-back parking tickets in error in downtown Colorado Springs.

Then the same thing happened downtown to a driver in one of our own 11 News unmarked cars.

Those tickets were all tossed out by the municipal courts after court staff reviewed evidence of paying properly and still getting ticketed.

With that tip, our Matt Kroschel started looking into the city’s complicated parking enterprise and how they communicate with the city’s courts.

The city says it is addressing some communication problems and is constantly working to make sure these errors don’t happen -- but admits it will never be a perfect system.

Kroschel started by asking for the data, filing open records requests: wanting breakdowns in the tickets issued and the numbers that are being tossed out by the courts. He obtained this recent audit of the parking enforcement system. City auditors found the same problems; the city says it’s still looking into how it’ll fix it all.

“You can pay with the mobile app, you can pay with credit card, you can add time -- there’s no time limits.”

Scott Lee heads up the city’s parking enterprise, managing the ticket writers, the people fixing these meters, and all the other folks it takes to keep the paid parking system running. It’s a complicated network, with new high-tech additions added to hopefully keep errors out of the mix.

“Parking had changed everywhere in the US over the last 20 years, but exponentially in the last five years especially,” Lee said. “When I came here, we had what I called dumb meters, where you feed your coin, and you didn’t have very many options ... if it didn’t work, you were stuck.”


“You can pay with the mobile app, you can pay with credit card, you can add time -- there’s no time limits.”

Lee told Kroschel there are always technical glitches that can happen.

“We continue to evolve. It’s not a static process. We’re never going to hear it works 100 percent, but we do about 8 or 9,000 transactions at the meters each and every day.”

If you think you didn’t deserve that ticket, you have the right to contact the courts.

Kroschel: “They send the email, or they give them a call, or they stop by the courts. And if the court dismisses the tickets or tells them, ‘Hey, you don’t have to pay this,’ how are you able to in your office and in your role track that information to know how many tickets are being dismissed because of errors?

Lee: “Right, that is a new feature of our system and the new JIS, the judicial information system, that we are looking at installing to provide better feedback to parking operations.”

And that was a top recommendation by auditors with the city who reviewed internal controls in July of 2022. They recommended enhanced court referee documentation and improving communications between the two offices.

In 2021, the city reports 3 percent of tickets were dismissed by court referees. The majority of those were due to payment or meter problems, but despite new layers of checks and balances on the back end of the parking system, errors are still happening.

Kroschel: After talking to some other folks, they said twice in a row, they came downtown to have dinner, and two different times they got a ticket. They were like, ‘Well, here’s my app,’ and they went through the same process. It might not be the same reason, but whatever happened, they got a ticket. Their question or their comment when we talked was, ‘It’s kind of a pain in the butt that I have to do everything right and still get ticketed two different times in a row.’ Is there a better way?

Lee: “We are trying.”

The system still relies on the person who gets the ticket to take the time to alert the courts and provide proof to the court referee, who can dismiss the ticket, just like they did for the family who contacted us after their twin ticket errors.

Lee: “We are still working on the issue of that. What we do now is municipal court referees will oftentimes email or call us and say, ‘Hey, we may have a situation here.”

Kroschel: “How many people who may be in the same situation are taking the time to send the email to the court referee on the back [of the ticket] in the fine print or they’re just writing the $25 check and paying for the ticket when it might not have actually been a ticket?

Lee: “I’m sure that happens. That’s a tough question, because we’re doing better. I wouldn’t say we’re an ‘A’ because we can always do better.”

So bottom line, if you come back to your car with one of these in your windshield, you have options. Make sure you are checking out the city website or the parking app for information about if a meter isn’t working or if you need to report an error.

In the meantime, happy parking.