Meter Madness

Queens has a starring role in the Muni-Meter meltdown bedeviling the city. There is a constant stream of complaints to community boards across the borough from motorists trying to appease the temperamental meters so they can perform simple tasks such as buying a newspaper or having a cup of coffee.

And the drivers are not the only ones on the losing end. Shop owners in heavily-metered areas like Bayside, Forest Hills and Whitestone are watching their businesses suffer as shoppers blame the merchants for the Muni-Meter nightmare. And employees are spending so much time searching for working meters that they often arrive to work late, drawing fire from unsympathetic employers.

Among the biggest complaints are broken meters, machines that run out of paper after the driver has paid for a ticket and meters that won’t accept quarters because they are already full.

Earlier this year, this newspaper did a spot check and found nearly half of the meters in the Whitestone Village area would not accept coins on a given day while several others were not working at all.

The Muni-Meter problem has become so widespread that it was discussed at a service cabinet meeting involving community boards from around Queens.

The solution is elusive.

The only recourse for the frustrated driver is to call 311 and report the number of the broken Muni-Meter. When one driver called the number recently to report a rash of broken meters near Bell Boulevard, she was told to phone in the numbers of all the non-functioning machines — an impossible task, since she feared being ticketed and was already late for work.

The din over the Muni-Meters became so loud that the City Council stepped in, passing a bill which required the city Department of Transportation to reprogram the machines to play by the rules and only take required payment. And Queens Councilman James Gennaro pushed through a law to allow motorists to cancel tickets handed out while they waited to feed the meter during a five-minute period.

The Muni-Meters were designed to raise revenue for the city, but shoppers and small businesses are being unfairly targeted. The DOT should hire enough inspectors to keep the Muni-Meters repaired and set up a complaint center with a special number motorists can call directly to report malfunctioning machines.

The Muni-Meter fiasco has gone on far too long.