Automated parking ramps confounding La Crosse drivers

La Crosse, Wis., has a big problem. Its drivers can’t figure out automated pay stations at the city’s municipal parking ramps, and so they’re just driving through the gate arms that block them from leaving, the La Crosse Tribune reports today.

“The company that supplies the arms told us we have by far the worst vandalism problem of any of their customers,” Bob Haines, the city’s assistant public works boss says.

Some drivers are apparently frustrated that they can’t get the automated pay systems to work right.

Drivers can find themselves stuck at exits when machines jam or purse and wallet magnets erase the data stored on entrance tickets. It was an unforeseen glitch — “Who knew that was going to happen?” Haines said — and there is no substitute to the paper tickets.

“Some vandalism is the direct result of complete frustration of people just trying to get out ramps,” Abraham said.

Officials open exit gates when the La Crosse Center hosts large events to alleviate traffic backups caused by ticket jams or motorists who aren’t prepared to pay with only credit cards or coins, said Mayor Tim Kabat, who noted the city can’t collect fees during those periods.

Dan Kapanke was struck in a line of cars trying to exit the La Crosse Center ramp after the Bi-State Classic wrestling tournament in late December, an event that draws thousands to the city.

“Some people were there for over an hour,” he said. “I thought there was an accident. I found out that it was people who didn’t have a credit card or change.”

City officials say they spending as much as $30,000 a year replacing the gate arms.

Be sure to watch the video of the pick-up driver, so confounded by the pay system that he tried to tailgate a paying customer. He didn’t make it.