Glitch causes nightmare in figuring car inspection wait times (NJ)greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Link Glitch causes nightmare in figuring car inspection wait times
Wednesday, December 22, 1999
By JEFF PILLETS Trenton Bureau
When Ronald Piracci rolled into the state inspection center at Wayne on Monday, the horrible truth was on display for everyone to see.
One hundred fifty-nine minutes.
That is how long the electronic billboard in front of the Route 46 station said it would take to get service. And Piracci was only the fourth in line.
"A nightmare," thought the West Caldwell resident.
Piracci ended up waiting only about an hour. The sign, it turns out, was not exactly accurate.
The electronic "real time" system that monitors waiting times at all 32 state inspection stations is so full of bugs, officials confirmed Tuesday, that it is impossible to predict when it might work again.
"We've got some problems there, no doubt about it," said Carl Golden, a spokesman for Parsons Infrastructure and Technology Group, the California firm that New Jersey is paying $400 million to manage auto inspections. "It's hard to say when these kinks will work out."
The state's new inspection system clunked to life last week with motorists complaining about wait times that in some cases exceeded four hours. Some stations were still reporting waiting times as long as 90 minutes Tuesday, although Golden said the average wait across the state had dropped to 21 minutes.
But state officials cautioned that all data about waiting times, as now reported, is at best a guess, based mainly on reports from Parsons' own station managers.
"With the monitoring system down, we're really making estimates based on what they phone into us," said Dana Sullivan, a spokesman for the state Division of Motor Vehicles. "People should probably call into the inspection station before trying to go there."
The monitoring system was supposed to prevent such uncertainty.
The large signs, set high on poles in front of each inspection station, were designed to keep lines short by warning away drivers during peak hours.
Station managers were to count the number of cars in line and punch in the arrival time for every new customer. Computers were then supposed to calculate and display the average waiting time.
It soon became apparent that the signs were not working.
Golden said some wait times appeared to be far longer than they really were, while others were a lot shorter.
"At this point, I have no way of knowing what's causing it or when it might be fixed," he said, adding that Parsons' technicians have been working to fix the system. "Obviously, we never anticipated wait times to be this high."
Neither did the Whitman administration, which on Monday announced $28,000 in fines against Parsons and said more could be on the way.
The fines are set by a complex formula in the Parsons contract which allows only four days a month of long waits, defined by the state as anything longer than 30 minutes.
Golden said Parsons' legal department is reviewing the fine and would object if the firm disagrees with the state's calculations.
"The governor has her legal department, we have ours," said Golden, who once was Whitman's chief spokesman.
While Parsons continued to work on the bugs, others were calling for the whole inspection system to be shut down until it works.
Assemblyman E. Scott Garrett, R-Sussex, said drivers should not be forced to endure "horrendously long" lines while the company trains its employees and fixes its computers.
Garrett, a longtime opponent of the new federally mandated inspection system, said fines against the company were inadequate.
"Parsons must guarantee that the system runs properly," he said.
Staff Writer Doug Most contributed to this article.
-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 22, 1999
Thanks Homer, for yet another good post.. Where do you find the time?
-- consumer (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.