About 2,000 Arlington County residents who use a dashboard device called “iPark” to pay for parking around the county will soon have to dig into their pockets for coins or credit cards, after the company that makes the device declared bankruptcy Tuesday.
Any money still loaded in the devices can still be used to pay for parking, county officials said, but users will be unable to reload the devices.
“We were notified about 1 a.m. Tuesday by e-mail that [ePark Systems Inc. of Woodland, Wash.] was going out of business,” said Carla de la Pava, Arlington’s chief deputy treasurer. “We have not sold new ones for about a year because of the financial difficulties of this company.”
Officials at ePark Systems could not be reached for comment. Its Web site says “ePark Systems, Inc. is in the process of shutting down its operations and will no longer be able to provide support for customers who have purchased its products.”
Between 4,000 and 5,000 devices have been sold, most of them at $20, in Arlington, but last year, only 1,258 appeared to be in active use, said Nathan Norton, deputy of operations for the County Treasurer’s Office.
That office, rather than the county transportation department, handles sales of the devices because the county treasurer was once responsible for collecting money deposited in the parking meters, de la Pava said. After a 1994 survey found abuses in the use of disability placards, which at the time allowed drivers to park for free, Treasurer Frank O’Leary calculated that the county was losing $350,000 annually to scofflaws. He sought another solution; the first device was called a Parkulator, which was later replaced by iPark.
The iParks initially were given away in 2005 to people with disabilities who wanted a more convenient way to pay for parking; subsequently, the products were sold to anyone interested.
“Since that time, a lot of advances came in that industry, with cellphone parking and the like,” said de la Pava. I still think there’s a demand for something like it. ... We are in the process of looking into alternatives. People who use them love them, and we want to meet their needs.”