Drivers overbilled by DFW Airport’s new parking system

Posted Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A 30-minute pickup at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport turned into a $100 headache for some North Texas TollTag users.

And they were far from isolated incidents for the 2-week-old high-tech system.

The airport has received 300 to 400 reports a day in the past few days from customers who believe they were incorrectly charged.

The new automated parking system at the airport, launched Sept. 4, has been overcharging some drivers with TollTags, the airport confirmed Thursday. And some drivers weren’t being charged at all.

“We’ve had some issues that are partly human error and partly a system reader error,” said airport spokesman David Magaña, adding that less than 1 percent of customers going through the parking system have been affected.

“In some cases, people were overcharged or undercharged, and in some instances they were charged the incorrect parking rate,” Magaña said.

The spokesman stressed that the number of complaints is dropping as corrective measures are taken. Moreover, he said, cash and credit card customers among the 40,000 motorists using the airport every day have not experienced problems.

With the new parking system, the TollTag reader takes longer to scan the tag as the vehicle enters the airport. Some drivers, who are used to the old system, which was a few seconds faster, have backed out of a lane or moved their car to try to get the system to work, causing the reader to incorrectly scan the tag.

The readers were also sometimes not properly scanning tags as the vehicle exited the airport, causing the parking system to think the vehicle was at the airport. When the drivers returned on a different visit, the system charged them as if they had been parked at the airport the entire time.

Magaña said the system has been reprogrammed to zero out any TollTag user who is entering the airport and the system believes is already parked.

The acknowledgment of hundreds of snafus followed the Sept. 4 release of glowing statements about the “highly automated” system that lets customers “quickly process” their own parking transactions.

“We have taken an important step to improve the customer experience by adding more lanes and reducing wait times to enter and exit the airport,” Jeff Fegan, the airport’s outgoing CEO, was quoted in the news release as saying. “The new Parking Control System allows many more lanes to operate because they are automated, and that will mean a better experience for a great majority of our customers.”

Then there was Ken Buchanan, the airport’s executive vice president of revenue management, who predicted that customers “are really going to notice improvements in speed and availability of lanes, because [we] have deployed a lot more lanes under the new system.”

The new system runs on software and hardware from Skidata, which the news release called one of the world’s leading suppliers of parking access systems.

The cost, including new plazas, associated administration buildings and full replacement of computer infrastructure, totaled about $56 million, it said.

Customers who believe they have been overcharged can call the airport at 972-973-4840, and the airport will issue a refund by check or to their credit card, Magaña said.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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