Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Human-kiosk interface requires effort

by Chris Schultz

September 20, 2012

Reading is fundamental.

And that's especially true when using the parking kiosks in Lake Geneva.

Kerri Johnson, meter supervisor, told the Lake Geneva Parking Commission on Tuesday that there are still folks who just don't get it.

The commission heard a short rundown on some of the things that go wrong when man and machine do not communicate.

The city went to the solar powered, computer driven digital parking system this year, well aware that the changeover might be a bit overwhelming for some.

Since the devices were installed in May, informational stickers have been added and a few removed from the devices, in an effort to create a friendly interface between human and kiosk.

Sometimes the best efforts fall flat.

Johnson said there have been instances in which well-meaning humans have deposited their intended payments into the wrong kiosk orifices.

For example, visitors complained that the kiosks were not taking coins, despite the fact that there is a coin slot on the right side of the kiosk face.

The city put neon orange roundels right next to the coin slots with the words "quarters only."

Johnson said she's dug a one-dollar bill out of the coin slot since then.

A more common failure to communicate has to do with where to insert credit cards versus cash.

The credit card slot is marked with the Visa and MasterCard logos. The slot for bills is clearly marked with images of paper currency.

Johnson said that over the past week, she and members of the parking staff have removed five credit cards out of the currency slot.

The kiosks communicate with city staff through their cell phones, notifying parking meter attendants when there are jams or something is stuck where it shouldn't be.

In some cases, those who lose their credit cards call the police, although in a few cases, the kiosk users left their plastic stuck where the sun doesn't shine without notifying anyone, Johnson said.

However, Mayor Jim Connors, who sat in on the meeting, said that five credit card blunders were statistically insignificant, when compared to the 14,752 parking transactions through the kiosks during the week of Sept. 10-16.

Still, city staff was considering adding some new informational stickers.

A picture of the proposed positioning of stickers on the kiosks was passed around.

"This is too much information," Johnson told the commissioners.

Johnson said two years ago, when the city put up a demonstration parking kiosk on Main Street, complete instructions for using the device were posted on the side of the machine.

Someone annoyed by the over-instruction wrote across them: "Do you think we're stupid?"

"I just want the credit cards put into the credit card slot," Johnson said.

Commissioner Dennis Swangstu said he heard complaints that the information screens on the kiosks are too small and are difficult to read in strong sunlight.

Noting that most of the tourists who come to Lake Geneva come from larger communities where these parking kiosks are common, Commissioner John Button said he thought most of the communications problems are closer to home.

"I don't think it's our visitors who are having problems," Button said. "I think it's the locals."

Connors said that it is up to residents and visitors to read instructions when using the parking kiosks.

"At some point, people have to take responsibility," Connors said.