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How do they issue parking tickets so fast?
June 17, 2014 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Every time I get a parking ticket, its issued within minutes of the meter expiring. Most of the meters can be paid by mobile phone, and the county also recently installed "smart meters". If they can send me a notification that my meter is going to expire, they can also send one to a local meter watcher. But do they?
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was an addict of the television show Parking Wars, which in part followed the meter readers who work in Philadelphia (the series later expanded to other cities, but I didn't watch the later seasons)

The meter readers in Philly did not have any complex notification system - they just walked the block and noted/remembered how much time was on each meter. They would sometimes start the ticket if there wasn't much time left and the validate and print it just after the meter expired.

(To me, a more logical use of smart-meters would be to automatically issue tickets and cut out the meter maid entirely.)
posted by muddgirl at 1:47 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Here in Chicago most places you don't have to pay after 10pm. The meters 2 or 3 hour limits generally. I have seen the ticket people cruising the block at 9:50pm, catching all those people in that tiny window between their ticket expiring and the block going to free park.

I have also seen them cruise residential zone blocks that go to residential permit parking at 6pm. 6pm on the dot, walking up and down the block to leave tickets to everyone without a permit.

I think it's less that they get notifications, and more that it's their job to give tickets, and have picked up on the habits of the parking public on their beat.
posted by phunniemee at 2:04 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


I'd be surprised if the meters even have the capability to 'phone home' to notify a meter reader of an expired meter. How would the meter know that your car is still parked in a space when the meter expires? How would it know that you didn't leave your space 5 minutes before the meter was up? If the meter were to just blindly send messages to parking enforcement whenever the parking period expires, the meter readers would be inundated with false positive alerts for parking violations...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:08 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


In LA I got nailed at a smart meter and discovered that they're hooked to local patrols that make it their business to be at the meter when it expires. The companies that get these city contracts are for-profit and get a cut of the fines.
posted by quince at 2:21 PM on June 17


Fidel Cashflow: How would the meter know that your car is still parked in a space when the meter expires?

From the article:

"Another benefit of the smart meters will become available later this year when in-pavement sensors will be installed so customers can use an app to find unoccupied, on-street parking spaces in Bethesda"

That's how. Every parking head knows if a car is present in it's space. This also has the evil benefit of zeroing the time on the meter when the car leaves...
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:46 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I don't know if the in-street sensors are already installed in Bethesda but if so that is probably it, in combination with the fact that they have a lot of people patrolling the downtown area (if that's where you are referring to).

If this is of any consolation, according to a totally inanely written article I read some time ago, they don't wait on cars nearing their expiration... but a single employee can issue a lot of tickets.:

Parking enforcement officers are paid by the hour, not by the ticket, Nash says. “There is no quota, no commission. … The officers have no incentive to stop,” he says. “If they see there’s a meter with one minute left, they’re not supposed to stand and wait for the minute to pass. They’re supposed to keep moving. … Believe me, there are plenty of expired meters down the way.”

.... . On average, he says, he issues 40 tickets a day on his route (though on sunny, summer days when everyone comes out to play he may issue as many as 70).

posted by NikitaNikita at 3:08 PM on June 17


How often are you more than a few minutes late to an expired meter?

It seems to me most often if you're going to get a parking ticket you're going to be a few minutes late as opposed to 30+ minutes late (because, you know, the meter is running...)
posted by bitdamaged at 3:30 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I got ticketed in Denver about 2 minutes after it expired, and I got there about 2 minutes after that. But I think they just patrol the museum-library-court area pretty heavily. Having owned a business in an area that had limited parking, and lots of meters, I can say that people hate being dinged so efficiently, and will then go to the mall. When Portland, Maine had a policy to forgive 1 ticket every 6 months or whatever, I thought it was really good for local business, but they stopped that policy. penny-wise.
posted by theora55 at 3:50 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


about 2 minutes after it expired, and I got there about 2 minutes after that

For what it's worth, a lot of areas (Chicago is one of them) have a five minute buffer around meter tickets. If your meter expires at 8:03 and you get a ticket at 8:06, you can write a letter to contest the ticket (obviously saying that you returned to your car within 5 minutes and had JUST gotten the ticket) and the ticket will be forgiven.

Most people just don't read the fine print or don't care enough to bother. Personally I only know this because I returned to my car literally three minutes after my thing expired, already had a ticket, and the ticketing person was a few cars down the way from me. I went to her and was like "AAAH I AM HERE DON'T GIVE ME A TICKET" and she said "oh, well, I can't take the ticket back once I've issued it, but since you're back at your car within 5 minutes, you can contest it, you know." And I did and the ticket vanished.

Anyway, my point is, check to see what the rules are locally and see if you can get them dropped. 2 minutes is just stupid.
posted by phunniemee at 6:42 AM on June 18


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