DENVER -- A privately-operated parking lot in busy downtown Denver is making changes after a Denver7 investigation found drivers receiving $75 parking tickets even after they believed they had paid to park.
One driver, Francesca Davis, called the Denver7 Investigates tip line after she received a parking ticket at a private lot on Platte Street even after paying to park via a cell phone app. She learned her ticket was written only one minute after her payment was processed.
“It really bothered me that they were so quick to give me a ticket, and it was completely wrong,” Davis said.
Davis said she tried to approach the private company that gave her a ticket to provide proof of payment but called Denver7 Investigates when she could not get the ticket resolved.
“I think they just... they're just playing a numbers game, they figure most people won't bother to fight it,” Davis said.
After being presented with the findings of Denver7’s investigation, the lot’s manager vowed to make changes.
Signs lead to confusion for drivers
Denver7 Investigates watched the lot for several days as ticket writers handed out fines hourly, and talked with drivers about their experience. Some said the signs in the lot were confusing.
The lot’s operators ticket anyone without a monthly permit during weekday business hours. But the signs at the lot’s entrance say “Authorized and Permit Parking Only,” and indicate a $7 daily rate, which some interpret to mean that you are authorized to park there if you pay the $7.
Another sign within the lot contains instructions for downloading a cell phone app or calling a phone number to pay but make no mention of the monthly permit hours.
Danielle Felice received a ticket for parking in the lot without a permit.
“[I] attempted to follow the directions as seen on the signs here, to download the app and then enter your payment information as well as your vehicle information license plate number and all of those things,” Felice told Denver7 Investigates after discovering a ticket on her windshield. “Once I had gone through those steps the then told me that it was unable to accept payment for this particular lot at that particular time.”
Felice said she went into a nearby business and was told the lot only requires payment on the weekends. That turned out to be the wrong information.
“I'm not happy with having to pay $75 after attempting to pay for the parking as was posted here on these signs,” Felice said.
Parking lot operator makes changes
Ellen Wilenski of Grand American, Inc. is the manager of the lot and she said she was surprised to hear of the confusion and complaints coming from drivers.
“We've talked to several of your customers who have received $75 tickets [who were] surprised, confused and not able to follow your system.... what does that say to you?” Denver7’s chief investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski asked.
“I'm really sorry about that. I really am,” Wilenski said. “We want our customers to be happy.”
Wilenski said she has occasionally heard that drivers are confused about the signs during the day but had not received complaints from people who felt they had received tickets in error.
“We are not running a lot to profiteer from it in any way,” she said. “I really regret that the customers who are unhappy didn't call us.”
Denver7 Investigates did find numerous complaints about the lot, the signs, and the payment process posted on the Better Business Bureau’s profile for Parking Revenue Recovery Systems, the company contracted to write tickets for the lot.
Wilenski said she was already in the process of switching management companies for the lot for unrelated reasons when she learned of Denver7’s investigation and has now accelerated the process.
“I have asked them to suspend violations until we get our new people in because I'm not happy,” she said.
Wilenski said new signs will be posted in an effort to make it clearer that only permit holders are allowed to park at the lot during weekday business hours.
Parking Revenue Recovery Services said its enforcement practices are fair.
“There is a large sign at the only entrance to the lot notifying all people entering the lot of the requirements to park in this lot. For after hours and weekends, there is a system set up for the user to download and app and pay for their parking session or they can call a toll-free number to pay for their parking session. The system will not accept attempts to pay during business hours Monday through Friday. If someone pulls onto the lot during business hour during the week and they do not have a valid permit, they need to pull out of the lot and park somewhere else,” Parking Revenue Recovery services wrote in a statement.
As for Francesca Davis, Parking Revenue Recovery Services said her ticket was dismissed some three weeks after she initially complained. The company said it dismissed Davis’s ticket as soon as she presented proof of her payment. The company said it appeared their ticket writer’s real-time payment tracking system did not update in time to avoid writing Davis a ticket.