Friday, April 22, 2011

Predatory Parking Meters

by J.S. Holland

Couple years ago, I parked my car at a metered spot on Bardstown Road, with the purpose of quickly handing a flyer for a show to a shopkeeper. I put in a dime, knowing that I'd be back in literally a minute, two at the most. But when I came right back, not only had the time run out, but a meter-lady had swooped in, seemingly out of nowhere, and placed the Green Envelope of Death on my windshield.

On a hunch, I put a nickel in and this time, I timed it closely with my watch. Sure enough, the meter was off. Way off. And as the incident demonstrated to me, a meter only has to be a little off - even 15 seconds off - to be capable of causing you a ticket that could in turn lead to a restraining boot being attached to your car.

I then made a phone call to PARC and found out that the process to appeal a parking ticket is a real pain; enough so that most people for whom time is money, myself included, end up deciding to just pay the sharks and move on.

According to

Broken or malfunctioning parking meters can be reported to PARC (Parking Authority of River City) at 502-574-3817. Please provide the meter number that is found on a metal plate on the back of the pole. The meter number is usually a combination of letters and numbers that indicate the location. Example: J-601 is the meter located in the 600 block of W. Jefferson Street. Reports of broken meters are forwarded to the Louisville Metro Department of Public Works for repair. Reporting the broken meter will not keep the parked vehicle from being issued a citation. There is an appeals process (see Parking Tickets) if you choose to stay parked at the meter. However, it may be wiser to move your car to another meter rather than risk the inconvenience of having to file an appeal.

Unfortunately, what this charming advice doesn't take into account is that in most cases, one doesn't know a meter has malfunctioned until it's too late and you've already been ticketed. The majority of people victimized by faulty meters may not even realize that they've been swindled - when they get back to their car and find the meter has run out, most probably just grumble at themselves for having seemingly lost track of the time, and leave it at that.

And that's exactly what they're hoping you'll do.

Reread what it says on the city's site above. They're gambling that you won't want to go through "the inconvenience of having to file an appeal," and are in fact trying to steer you against it from the getgo.

It goes without saying that predatory lending is considered an unsavory practice, and a tool of usury employed by organized crime groups and credit card companies. Why? Because the game is played like this: the lender lends you money knowing full well that you may not be able to pay it back in time. And when you don't, you're saddled with exorbitant interest, known as "the Vig." And when you refuse to pay the Vig, then Paulie Walnuts shows up to rough you up and confiscate your belongings.

And how is the game played in the parking meter scam? Almost identically. The city charges you a fee to park on a street (that you as a taxpayer already partially own), knowing full well that you may not be able to make it back to your car on time. And when you don't, you're saddled with an exorbitant penalty fee, known as a ticket. And when you refuse to pay the ticket, then Paulie Walnuts shows up to confiscate your car by putting a boot on it.

Now, reread once more what it says on the city's site above. It states that there is an appeals process if you claim your ticket was a result of a meter that is broken or malfunctioning. And yet, when you go to the city's webpage regarding that appeals process, it clearly states in plain English:

Not reasons for an appeal:

1.Lack of knowledge of the City's parking regulations.
2.Appointment conflicts or tardiness going or returning from appointments.
3.Inability to find a legal parking space.
4.Failure to have appropriate or sufficient amount of coins.
5.Broken or malfunctioning parking meter.

Can you say Catch-22?

How, in the name of all that is ethical and legal, can the city claim that you have to put money in a meter, but then also insist that they are not responsible if the meter mischarges you?

The meters, and the regulations regarding them, are the city's. Regardless of any disclaimer language on their website, the city can - and must - be held responsible for the accuracy of their meters and for any hardships on citizens caused by inaccuracies.

Which parking meters in town are wrong, and how wrong are they? That's something I'm going to be investigating, dear reader. And when you report one of these faulty meters to the PARC phone number above, how much time elapses - and how many more tickets are given to other suckers - before something is done about it? This, too, is a question whose answer we shall endeavour to learn. All in time.

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