A Vancouver parking lot that uses photo technology to ticket drivers is facing allegations of unfair play.

The parking meters at the VIA Rail station are operated by Municipal Parking Services (MPS). The high-tech meters capture images of vehicles once parking time has expired, but several irate motorists have contacted CTV News claiming they hadn’t even finished parking before they were ticketed.

Al Alain got a ride from his daughter to the VIA Rail station on his way to catch a train to Edmonton on New Year’s Eve.

“We just pulled in because it was close and very easy to unload our bags and away we went," said Alain. 

The drop off took a matter of minutes, but two weeks later Alain received a parking ticket for $75 in the mail from MPS.

"So why did we get the ticket and how did we get the ticket? How come we didn't get a tag on the windshield?" asked Alain.

The meters at VIA Rail’s parking lot allow you to stop for five minutes without paying, regardless if you’re still in the vehicle or not. After that, a photo is taken of your vehicle and a ticket, with that photo attached, is sent in the mail. However, a number of motorists claim the meters weren’t working properly, and that the tickets stated incorrect dates and times.

Doug Mitchell claims he received several tickets with incorrect information and became frustrated with MPS’ dispute claim process.

“I called, I left a message. I never heard anything,” said Mitchell, “I called a second time. I still didn’t hear anything.”

The Better Business Bureau has given MPS an “F” rating due to the number of unresolved complaints filed against the company. Several of the complaints involve people who say they have tried to dispute their ticket, but could not get a response from the company.

The CEO of Municipal Parking Services, Tom Hudson, admits the meters were originally set to the wrong time zone, causing confusion with the tickets, but that this issue has since been resolved.

"You know, people don't like getting tickets, but the fact is if you deserve a ticket I guess you deserve a ticket. The whole idea with the cameras and the computer system is that it's pretty irrefutable proof," said Hudson.

Hudson stands by the accuracy and fairness of the photo meters, but customers still aren’t satisfied.

"The money is not the point to me, it's the principle of what they're actually doing and the fact that they're denying anything is wrong,” said Mitchell. 

Since Steele on Your Side first spoke with MPS, the company says it is making changes.

The CEO says MPS is re-examining its customer service procedures. The company is also promising to ensure a quicker response in the future and a more effective fine appeal process. As well, indicators on the meters will tell you if you have a ticket and it will be half price if you pay on the spot.

If you’re looking to appeal a parking ticket in general, here’s some advice from the Better Business Bureau:

  • Read your ticket to find out your payment options. There may be a reduced fine for paying early.
  • Contact the company as soon as possible to see if they will excuse tickets for first time offenders.
  • Check to see if there is an option to contest a municipal ticket online or over the phone without going to court.
  • Be warned, that unpaid and unresolved parking tickets may be sent to a collection agency, and eventually show up on your credit report.