Imagine being legally parked at a parking meter in Grand Rapids only to return to your vehicle and discover you've been issued a parking ticket.

It's happening to users of the new Motu parking app in Grand Rapids.

I have first-hand experience.

On Tuesday, August 7, I was parked on East Park Place next to Veteran's Memorial Park in downtown Grand Rapids. I activated Meter 2215 using Grand Rapids' new Motu app at 2:49 p.m. About 15 minutes later, I returned to my vehicle to find a lovely, fluorescent City of Grand Rapids parking violations envelope on my windshield holding a parking citation. It would cost $20.00, $40.00 if not paid within 10 days.

The ticket was issued at 2:56 p.m. for a violation at Meter 2215. I checked my Motu app. Yes, it was still going and I was paying for the meter.

Could it be I was too far from the curb? Too far from the parking meter?

No and no.

I did an exceptional job of parking this day, but I had no time to admire my work. Instead, I quickly looked around trying to find whoever was inspecting meters and writing tickets. I was looking someone with an evil laugh who might be slowly tapping their fingers together while displaying a sinister look. Someone who loves taking money. A real-life Montgomery Burns. But he or she was nowhere to be found.

Next, I went online to figure out how to fight the ticket. There's a form you need to fill out, but once you start the process of clicking through menus there's a number to call if your dispute is due to a mobile app. That's the first clue that maybe this isn't an isolated incident.

I called the City of Grand Rapids Parking Services as directed. I quickly got through. Once I mentioned Motu they knew exactly what was going on before I could even finish my explanation.

Grand Rapids Parking Services explained to me that there is a delay between the time you start the Motu app on your phone and the time the meter actually becomes activated. They have informed Motu developers of the issue, but have not heard back on when to expect the problem to be solved.

I reached out to the Motu developers' marketing and communications team on Wednesday morning and received the following response the next morning:

It is important that we remedy this matter quickly and efficiently with the City of Grand Rapids in the best interest of the community. We are actively working to resolve this issue and expect it to be resolved by the end of this week. In addition to resolving this matter, we have improved the Motu app by allowing users to pay in one-minute increments, utilize the stop a parking session feature and we provide a 10-minute expiration notification.

The City of Grand Rapids' hands may be tied to an extent, but it's disappointing that they would let a known issue continue without notifying those who use the service.

The good news is that if you get a ticket at an active meter it is easy to get the ticket cancelled, but it's a problem people parking in Grand Rapids shouldn't have to deal with in the first place.

UPDATE: Motu developers told us on Friday afternoon, August 10, that the updating issue has been fixed. 

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