Digital parking meters in Honolulu suddenly stopped accepting credit cards on Wednesday after Verizon shut down its 3G network, according to the Department of Transportation Services. 

An estimated 2,200 meters, primarily in the downtown and Waikiki areas, are thought to be affected, DTS Director Roger Morton said in an interview. 

Impacted meters won’t allow users to select a parking time after they insert a credit card but will still accept quarters, he said. Some meters are still processing card payments for reasons the department doesn’t understand, he said Thursday, but the department believes those will be shut down too. 

Digital parking meters in downtown and Waikiki won’t be accepting credit cards for several months, officials said. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023

“Unfortunately, we were caught off guard,” he said. 

Honolulu was informed in 2019 that Verizon would make the shift away from older networks, Morton said, and the company expressed its intentions publicly as early as 2016. The carrier was initially going to shut down 3G in 2019 but extended the timeline to allow customers more time to respond. 

But the city was slow to upgrade the meters. 

Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s administration initially budgeted the upgrades as a capital expense but was later told it should be in the operating budget, according to Morton. The Honolulu City Council approved $2 million for the project last year and the department is now going through the procurement process.

The department wasn’t aware the final shutdown would happen this week, Morton said. 

For the time being Morton urged drivers to continue paying the meters with quarters. The city generates about $2 million a year in revenue from digital meters. 

“People can put coins in all of the meters right now,” Morton said. “However, we do believe that – and our vendors have told us – that ultimately in a period of weeks, meters that are electronic will stop accepting coins too.”

The Honolulu Police Department will temporarily suspend the issuing of citations for affected meters, spokeswoman Michelle Yu said.

“There will be no change to the enforcement or collections procedures for strictly coin-operated parking meters,” she said.

It could be six months or more before the meters are updated. In the meantime, DTS is exploring temporary solutions. 

Morton said the city’s parking vendor, IPS, told the department that some 80 municipalities across the country also lost the use of their digital meters.

Verizon’s shutdown of 3G also means cell phones and other technology that relied on the network no longer work.

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