News about the latest government scandal, no matter when, seems to consume the mainstream media… at least until the buzz or outrage dies down or another story takes its place. As it is hard to get any attention for anything smaller or doesn’t make the cut for a 23-minute newscast, people like myself take on telling these stories, in hopes they are heard, spread and people can hopefully can avoid it happening to them.
This story is about something that happened to me, and is still in process. It may not sound like such a big deal, but it highlights how a breakdown across government agencies can happen at any level, from the parks department in Chicago to the US Veterans Administration.
A not-so-special events parking ticket
A few weeks back I parked my car along South State Street in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. There are several types of on-street parking spaces there – metered, resident, open with the exception of during an event at nearby Soldier Field, or some combination of these. Where I parked was a combination of the last 2. It was a Saturday afternoon, and in my mind there was no event going on at Soldier Field, the home of the NFL Chicago Bears, so I parked and went on my way. Little did I know there was a beer festival going on at the stadium, and upon return to my car I saw a parking attendant put a ticket on my car, a US$60 fine for a “special events restriction.”
Needless to say, I was a little upset about this, but clearly I was in the wrong. To reinforce this, had I simply followed the instructions on the street signs I could have avoided the fine and parked elsewhere. As shown in the photo above, the sign clearly tells parkers to check Soldier Field’s Web site or call 311, Chicago’s non-emergency information hotline, to see if there is an event going on a few blocks away. I would surely do this the next time, as I had 60 reasons to do so.
Next time a communication breakdown
Fast forward to this past Saturday and I am getting ready to drive down to the South Loop, and would be looking for on-street parking. Remembering my last experience, I decided to check if any “special events restrictions” were in play. Where the concept was easy enough and I had the places to check, I was unsuccessful in this cross-functional communication breakdown.
First I called 311, and the conversation went something like this:
311: (after about a minute on hold) Can I help you?
Mike: Is there any events going on at Soldier Field today?
311: Yes, there is a walk going on.
Mike: What time does it end?
311: It started at 9 and I don’t have when it is supposed to end.
So much for that channel, and I decided to check the Soldier Field Web site at soldierfield.net, and I got the following:
This was odd, as I know I had the right URL for the site, so I tried searching for the site and linking to it that way, and I got the same result. I had been to the Soldier Field Web site before, and I had no idea what was wrong or where it was. Where is the Web site? Is it temporarily down for maintenance or is there a bigger problem.
I then took to Twitter, first clicking on the link on their profile to the Web site and got the same error. Then I sent a tweet to @soldierfield and then checked the time and had some place to go, so I left and found on-street meter parking not far from my destination and paid a few dollars and all was good.
Well, all was good except for the Soldier Field Web site. Now almost a week later, it is still down. In the course of that afternoon I got a reply to my tweet from @soldierfield on my mobile phone – I saw it on the lock screen of my iPhone as an alert from the Twitter app. It only showed the beginning of it, and it said something to the affect that “they were sorry for the inconvenience” – I don’t recall exactly what it said, and a few minutes later when I went back to check it, the tweet was gone. I certainly was not hallucinating or doing anything to cause me to dream about it. After checking the Twitter app, it was certainly gone, and they must have deleted it after they sent it to me.
Though it is not American football season, there are other events going on at Soldier Field, one being soccer with Mexico vs. Bosnia this past Tuesday night. Here it is Thursday and still no Web site or even an explanation where it is, and a tweet is a common way to get the word out.
Where 311 did not have all of the information, and Soldier Field’s Web site had none of it, I was not willing to risk it that the parking authority or the outsourced ticket attendants that roam the streets of the city were not there, as I was almost certain they would be. The workaround was paying to park for US$6 for 3 hours, and that was fine for me. Less hassle, namely from barking up the tree of various city agencies or the local alderman, as I didn’t have the time or interest to fight that battle, and my time, effort and frustration would certainly be worth more than 6 dollars.
This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.
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