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Parking Mayhem

Parking Mayhem

Metropolis plays fast and loose with Music City patrons

“The goal is to be a next-generation parking operator.” That quote came from Ryan Hunt, former CEO of Premier Parking and current COO of Metropolis Technologies, an artificial-intelligence platform developer based out of East Nashville. 

Though the company touts its product as "artificial intelligence for the real world," the real world is experiencing some difficulties with its automated parking enterprise. “Their technology works for them, but for the consumer it feels deceptive,” said Deborah Fisher, the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. A free speech advocate who regularly uses the Metropolis lot across from the state capitol, Fisher’s concerned about the unpredictability of the company’s prices, which sometimes fluctuate by the hour. “When you drive in, there's no sign,” she explained. “There's no electronic sign that says, ‘Hey, this is how much we're charging today.’”

After noticing unexpected parking charges on her account, Fisher filed complaints with both Metropolis and the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. “Some days, it may be a flat rate, you know, whether you're there for an hour or eight hours,” Fisher said, relaying what she was told by the company. “Sometimes they'll charge by the fifteen-minute increment. And you don't know.” 

Fisher isn’t the only patron who’s had a less-than-stellar experience with Metropolis. Last month, Chris Burger, founder of Rotunda Public Affairs, headed to the Ryman to enjoy a concert. His friend had picked him up, and Burger offered to pay for parking. Burger opened the Metropolis app, entered his friend’s license plate number under the company’s “temporary car” feature, and paid the “fifty-two dollars and odd cents to park there for the evening.” Then disaster struck. After the show, Burger and his friend returned to a ticket on the windshield. He then opened the app to see two different fines posted to his account, totaling $224.89.

After spending hours navigating Metropolis’ cumbersome customer service process, filing a complaint, and rectifying the situation, Burger took to X to air his grievances with Hunt’s “next-generation parking operator.” His post garnered a number of responses echoing his complaints (“Yup, they scammed me as well,” one user commented. “This is one of the big reasons we don't go downtown anymore,” said another). The deluge of negative comments about Metropolis in his replies was unsurprising, given that similar experiences have been reported since they started operating in 2022. 

Caught in the crosshairs is District 19 Councilmember Jacob Kupin, who’s received numerous complaints about the company. While speaking to the Pamphleteer about his attempts to intercede on behalf of his constituents, Kupin relayed his own poor experience with Metropolis: his car was booted by the company while on the campaign trail last year due to a year-old unpaid violation he was unaware of. 

Since taking office in the fall, Kupin has spoken with the owners of Metropolis. “His position is people have been stealing parking for years,” Kupin said of Ryan Hunt. The council member then recanted Hunt’s reaction to the growing mountain of customer complaints. The COO would like to work out the kinks, said Kupin, but also feels “‘...the technology is really, really great. It's worth it.’”

As Metropolis continues to test out its technology on Music City, more and more customers continue to bear the brunt of the company’s shortcomings. “To make elderly people chase down their council person to try to get back $150 because they didn't know how to work QR code, to me, is not a look that I want for the city,” said Kupin.

The Pamphleteer has reached out to Metropolis for comment, but has yet to receive a response.