Internet outage causes drivers to get stuck in Asheville parking garage

At least one driver took matters into their own hands when a parking garage in Asheville malfunctioned Wednesday night. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Several drivers were stuck in a parking garage in Asheville late Wednesday night--just long enough for at least one of them to take matters into their own hands.

Around 11:30 p.m. a News 13 producer was one of several drivers attempting to leave the Pack Square parking garage on Biltmore Avenue. Soon, it was apparent no one was going anywhere.

That's because the ticket booth was showing an error message. Pressing the assistance button provided no assistance. Multiple drivers called Asheville Police to report the issue. APD said they were notifying Asheville Parking Services.

After about 30 minutes of waiting, someone decided enough was enough and broke the parking gate. In minutes, cars were free.

On Thursday, News 13 contacted Preferred Parking, which operates the garage. Brent Weber, the Vice President of Development for Preferred Parking said an internet outage was to blame for the issue. Weber said new automated equipment was installed in November and this was the first time there had been any kind of issue. He said there are safeguards in place for power outages, but an internet outage was a first for them.

The outage is also why the intercom assistance button didn't work on the parking booth. Weber said they keep a person on duty who patrols all of their service lots in Asheville and normally pressing the assistance button would have reached that individual. Weber said it also caused the cameras at the parking garage to go offline.

When asked about safety issues since drivers were unable to get a hold of anyone, Weber said whoever broke the gate down was right in doing so. He said safety is Preferred Parking's first priority and that if someone felt unsafe and was not getting the help they need, the action was understandable. He also encouraged anyone who feels threatened or unsafe to contact police for assistance as well.

Preferred Parking says it is being proactive when it comes to making sure drivers who use their garages are safe. Weber said following Wednesday night's incident, they are now going to add stickers to booths inside of all of their parking garages with a number for drivers to reach a 24/7 call center for immediate assistance if another malfunction happens. Prior to this, an 800 number was posted outside of the garages but not inside.

Weber also said Preferred Parking is contacting the manufacturer of the gate as well. In instances of power failures, Weber told News 13 the gates are designed to automatically raise up so drivers can go through. Weber said since that didn't happen with an internet failure, they want to make sure the equipment is working properly.

Preferred Parking operates a number of parking garages in Asheville and Charlotte, where the company is based.

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