Can I park at a broken meter?

Most of my individual parking issues are caused by a lack of information. Sure, I got my driver’s license all those years ago and proved I could make left turns, park and decipher the color codes on the curb, but nobody every taught me the more detailed regulations of parking. And anyway, everywhere I go has different laws, rules and payment strategies.

For instance, I headed out to a local shopping area last week. It was packed with people and parking was tight. In what seemed a stroke of good luck, I found a spot right in front of the store I needed to visit. When I got out to pay, there was the hitch: a small note inside the meter saying it was broken.

I think that note is the reason the spot was empty, but I had a strong feeling, reinforced by a pressing need to park, that it is legal to park at a broken meter. Nobody’s making money off that space, but the space is still up for grabs, right?

I weighed my options, and considering what I know of parking enforcement in the area, decided to risk it. I was in and out of the store and drove off without a ticket. I still don’t know if that was legal or not, but I guess I got away with it. What I’d like is a cheat sheet, easy to read and easy to find, that will answer this question, and several others.

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Lowell Harwood, RIP

I received word that Lowell Harwood, a legend in the parking industry, passed away yesterday. I didn’t know Lowell, but knew his family and respected their work, not only in parking but also in development and charitable causes. Here is his obituary that ran in the local New Jersey press:

Lowell Harwood, Square Industries and
Harwood Properties Chairman
Lowell Harwood, a longstanding member of the Jersey City business community who grew his family’s parking company into a $100 million venture, died March 18. Harwood, a Short Hills, NJ, resident and former Kean University trustee, was 85.
Born in Newark and raised in Jersey City, Harwood returned to Hudson County after graduating from Kent State University and serving in the United States Army during the Korean War to work in the family parking business that began in 1920.
Harwood built and grew the business, breaking into the competitive New York market with a shrewd business model of choosing the right locations and charging reasonable prices. The company went public in 1969, with Harwood becoming chair of Square Industries, Inc., headquartered at 921 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City where Harwood was raised.
By the time the company was sold in 1997, the family operation had grown to a $100 million business with 135 locations across the United States. During Harwood’s leadership of Square Industries, the company managed parking at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., one of Harwood’s proudest achievements.
After selling the company, Harwood continued running Harwood Properties LLC, a private parking and property management company that continues to be managed by the Harwood family in Jersey City.
He served on the board of the Jersey City Chamber of Commerce, and served as the chamber’s president in 1958. In 1997, the Harwood family purchased the site of the former State Theater and created the first, new residential development in Journal Square in more than 50 years.
Harwood was also involved in numerous parking business associations, serving on the Board of Directors for the National Parking Association, the Metropolitan Parking Association and the New York Parking Association.
A philanthropist in Jersey City and throughout his home state, Harwood was a dedicated supporter of Christ Hospital serving on the board of trustees, the executive board and the Christ Hospital Foundation board for 40 years. While serving on the Foundation Board, Harwood donated funds to establish the Harwood Heart Center, a state-of-the-art coronary-care unit, which continues to bear Lowell’s name.
Harwood’s philanthropy included more than 10 years of service as a Kean University Trustee and Trustee Emeritus. Harwood implemented numerous campus improvement projects and donated a stained-glass window that remains the centerpiece of the Kean Hall Conference Center.
Harwood also founded the Kean University Gala event in 1997, which raised more than $1.4 million over seven years for the school’s scholarship fund, a cause for which Lowell was very passionate.
In recognition of his dedicated service to Kean, he was named the university’s ‘Man of the Year’ at its sixth annual gala in 2003. The Harwood Arena at Kean University is named after the former Jersey City businessman in honor of his leadership and generosity to the university.
His family belonged Temple Beth El in Jersey City for more than 50 years, and Harwood was a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Harwood is survived by his wife, Toby; his brother, Sanford; his children, Leslie and Craig; his grandchildren, Jonathan, David and Laura Ehrlich; and his nephews Brett and Scott Harwood.

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Should Cities, Universities, or Hospitals use Public Funds to Join the IPI or NPA?

I haven’t the slightest idea. However this seems to have become a substantial controversy in the UK.  They published a story about it in the local parking mag and when I was in the UK last week I talked about it to the fellow who wrote the story, Parking Review Editor Mark Moran and former British Parking Association Head Keith Branbury.

There is a group in the UK called NoToMob who believe that aggressively enforcing parking rules is contra to the good nature of English Life. They have had an ongoing campaign to disrupt ticket writing on the Sceptered Isle. The ride around on motorcycles wearing masks and generally make pests of themselves.  They look like this15737-m  :

Those masks rather look like the ‘Occupy’ folks here in the US but in the UK they are known as “Guy Fawkes” masks.  OK Fair Enough.

The MoToMob folks discovered that the BPA had a major training program for traffic wardens (who write tickets in the UK) and that cities who were members send their staffs to these training programs. End result — better enforcement, more money collected.

They also discovered that about 245 cities were members of the BPA and supported the organization through their dues.

Horror of horrors. Can’t have that. So they are lobbying the cities to drop the BPA. I guess they feel that if the cities don’t have good training program and networking in their parking organizations, they won’t write as many tickets. or something.

They are morally outraged that taxpayer money is supporting the BPA, some of whose members are actually private firms that enforce on and off street parking regulations.

If that’s not enough, the BPA sponsors a ‘Park Mark” program where parking garages, that join the program, are rated for safety, cleanliness, lighting, and the like. If they pass, they get a “Park Mark” and I suppose people would prefer to park there rather than a run of the mill garage down the street. There are 5000 garages in the UK with a “Park Mark”.

What a waste, says MoToMob. they are lobbying cities to opt out of the program, as well as dumping the BPA altogether.

The BPA counters that they are a professional organization that provides support to parking groups across the country and frankly, they don’t think that MoToMob is much of a threat. The problem is that the decision in the end lies with politicians and noone lost an election when they were against parking tickets. The jury is still out.

This is a lesson for our organizations and parking departments as well. People don’t think that parking should be paid. It should be free, and there should always be a space 10 feet from where I’m going. So when you do anything to change those notions, you become the enemy. It takes patience, PR, understanding, and a lot of discussions to make this issue go away, and sometimes it never will.

My experience has been that its not the parking fee, its the ticket that has been written in error that causes all the pain. Rules are so set in stone that line staff members can’t make quick and reasonable decisions. Reversing a poorly written ticket takes an act of congress and then the problems escalate to the front page or the nightly news. We all look like ninnies.

Keith tells me that is seldom a week that goes by that there isn’t an article in one of the national newspapers in the UK about a pensioner being gives a ticket when he was sitting in his car, or an ambulance, or a priest while giving last rites.

We do bring this on ourselves.




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British Parking Awards

I was honored to be invited to the British Parking Awards. They are given annually by an independent group, headed by Parking Review Magazine. (Not affiliated with the British Parking Association.)

The event was held at the Lancaster Gate Hotel in central London. It opened with a reception and then continued with a luncheon and the awards presentations. To quote the Parking Review:

The British Parking Awards gala lunch is the premier social event in the UK parking calendar. The 2015 ceremony, which took place in the 4-star surroundings of the Lancaster London hotel, was hosted by television presenter and Paralympic wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan.

Having survived polio as a youngster, Ade Adepitan has gone on to compete as a wheelchair basketball player on an international level and has since built up a wealth of broadcasting experience.

An instantly recognisable face, Ade traverses the world for BBC World’s The Travel Show and is a reporter on Channel 4′s foreign affairs series Unreported World, which has seen him report from Honduras and Cuba. Other documentary work includes Ade Adepitan: Journey of my Lifetime, which saw him return to his birthplace Nigeria to explore why polio remains endemic there.


Here’s a shot of Ade and the winners of the “Best new Car Park” Award.

I was hosted by our European correspondent, Peter Guest, and was fortunate to sit between Parking Review Editor Mark Moran and British Parking Association”s Keith Barnbury. Keith is the former CEO of the BPA and sits on their council.

I had a great discussion with Mark on how he puts the award program together (Peter is one of their judges) and with Keith on the attack against the BPA by a citizens group that seems to have an aversion to parking fees. See my comments on the next blog.

I found it interesting that although the BPA is not a part of the British Parking Awards or connected with Parking Review, they work closely together to promote parking in the UK. The BPA has a magazine, but it focuses on its members. This is much the same relationship that Parking Today has with the National Parking Association. NPA President Christine Banning and I believe that a rising tide raises all boats.

I will always wonder why the ‘other’ parking association in the US doesn’t seem to want to be involved with the two of us. Oh well….


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People Parking Badly

Nobody took more than their share of a lane; nobody drove off the deck of the parking garage, but people in Goodwood, Australia, are such bad parkers they earned themselves the right to pay for parking.

According to, Goodwood bigwigs offered residents three hours of free parking at a local garage. Users didn’t have to pay to park, but they did have to obtain and display and parking ticket to show their time of entry. Some of them didn’t display their tickets for free parking, overstayed their welcome and received a fine. Goodwoodians found this process too confusing and complained to the powers that be.

Those in charge decided the time limit would be more easily enforced if a fee was involved in the transaction.

Cr John Koumi said the introduction of the $1 fee would allow the council to better enforce traffic controls and minimise the number of fines contested.

“We want to be able to enforce the restrictions because that was the whole intent of why we started the trial — we wanted to encourage parking turnover,” Cr Koumi said.

If there were some kind of Darwin Award for the parking industry, I think it should go  to Goodwood. Now that the fee has been imposed, they’re still stumped.

Endota Spa manager Alyce Dick said customers would boycott the carpark entirely if fees were introduced.

“It’s been so confusing already with the three-hour printing of the tickets and throwing something else in there will confuse it even more,” Miss Dick said.

Sometimes the mechanics of paying for parking can be confusing (where’s the machine? how does it work? how much do I pay?), but the concept is pretty straightforward.

Read the article here.

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The People Want What They Want

I know that within the parking industry, paid parking is not seen as a factor that inhibits growth or business in retail areas, but the average parker strongly disagrees. In Dearborn, Michigan, city leaders are creating a parking plan that respects both perspectives. According to, Dearborn is removing most of its meters and making public parking free.

“This is a very positive step that will help us achieve our goal of promoting more investment and activity in the west downtown. To get the best results for our local economy, we need to be realistic and remove anything that is perceived as an impediment to re-creating a robust and vibrant business district,” Mayor Jack O’Reilly said.

However, some of the meters will remain in place:

About 40 meters along Mason, Howard, and West Village Drive will remain after March 24 to encourage customer turnover. City officials said that is because these spots are among the most convenient parking spaces to nearby businesses.

So, even though the city has caved to the demands of the free-parking obsessed population, it’s giving a nod to all the experts and their research that say paid parking is best because it encourages turnover and provides brings in revenue.

I call that the best of both worlds.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Meter thief caught – $1 million later

A security guard in Sweden has been arrested and ordered to return more than $1 million (U.S.) he stole from parking meters in Malmo. The employee of a company hired to empty the meters, the man spent the last 10 years helping himself to meter money. As reported by, the thief knew how to work the system and kept his stash in the trunk of his car.

It’s a little bit of a relief to read these things happen in countries that are not the United States, and shocking to consider the amount of time he spent stealing before he got caught.

“He had very good knowledge about how the system worked,” Thomas Strandberg, CEO of municipal parking company Parkering Malmö, told The Local.

“We did things in the same way as other parking companies.”

He was eventually caught after a routine check and was sentenced to three years’ jail in 2013.

If only that “routine check” had been conducted more routinely – the city might have saved itself a big chunk of change. As it stands, I have real doubts that the former security guard  still has the hundreds of thousands he stole.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Parking drama makes the world go round

Parking can be so dramatic. Take Hayward, Calif., for instance. According to, the city recently implemented parking limits for its free garages and lots so that BART commuters would stop parking there all day. The parking limits affected municipal employees who regularly park in the free garages and lots, so they were given permits to show they are exempt. Now local merchants want the same privilege. They park in the free lots to leave street spots open for their customers.

Hayward has issued more than 270 parking citations downtown since January after handing out warnings in December, said city spokesman Frank Holland.

True Value Hardware owner Jacob Shatara was ticketed for parking on A Street near his store at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and A about a half mile from the BART station.

“I’ve been parking there for 17 years, in the same spot, with no problems until now,” he said.

The noise around town is that city officials are going to propose a study of the situation. However, Mayor Barbara Halliday, perhaps motivated by the journalists ringing her phone off the hook, has other plans.

“I’m going to suggest that we offer businesses permits so their employees can park and not be ticketed. We should be looking at this now, not later,” said Halliday. She plans to bring up the subject at the next council meeting to see if other council members agree.

It makes sense to address the issue quickly and it would make more sense to address the issue before it became an issue. But it would be a problem for local news outlets if their city leaders never made a misstep. All’s well that ends well.

Read the article here.


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No Parking Like Snow Parking

I’ve already devoted plenty of blog space to the “space-saving” efforts of the parking public in snowbound areas like Chicago and Boston, but I’m so fascinated by this phenomenon, I can’t help myself. The idea that people choose to live in a place where they are so antagonized by the weather is only part of my fixation, but it’s mostly the whole “Lord of Flies,” survival of the fittest, “anarchy lives” approach to parking that I find interesting. We’re talking about parking, first of all, and a whole list of unwritten rules that give people the idea that they can save a public parking space for their own use just because the snow is piled up to their eyeballs. It’s study on human nature being played out on city streets.

It’s not going to be happy ending for those who have tricked themselves into thinking they really can save their parking spaces with lawn chairs and stolen pylons. City workers are already moving more than 900 truckloads of snow of the streets every day. And now, as a new storm is on its way and Boston approaches its all-time snow record, reports that city garbage collectors will be picking up space saving items with the trash.

“It’s going to continue to be difficult probably for the next month. It doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a thaw anytime soon,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said. “We’re going to be living with these snow piles for a while.” Massachusetts has already spent $100 million on snow removal this winter and that number may grow, especially with another round of snow on the forecast for Tuesday.

I think that in moments of extreme, it’s smart for somebody to keep the shenanigans down to a minimum. Mayor Walsh has to keep a city in duress from falling apart and fighting over parking spots won’t help anybody. It’s time for Bostonians to practice the “we’re all in this together” approach” until the worst is over.

Read the rest of the article here.

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PIE Surpasses Last Year in Exhibition Size – Its Hall is Almost Full

Marcy tells me that the Parking Industry Exhibition is virtually sold out.  There are only a few spaces and a couple of table tops left. And with only 27 days left until the show begins, they will be sold shortly. If you want to exhibit at the first parking exhibition of the year, contact her NOW —

PIE 2015 is not only the first event of the year, but it is also a place where you can get your questions answered, your knowledge increased, and your contact list filled. We have focused on the issues that our industry faces and the information is fresh, topically, and timely.

  • 3M’s closing has left many customers with questions. The first seminar on Monday is a place where these former 3M customers can meet, discuss alternatives, commiserate, and get ideas.
  • October will bring the EMV changes. If you take credit cards, what does this mean to you.
  • New to Parking -- or not so new—Sunday’s Boot camp is filling up
  • Technology Camp will prepare you to visit the exhibit floor and sort out the wheat from the chaff
  • Looking for a revenue control system – three seminars will headline twelve manufacturers. They will tell you all their secrets.
  • On street questions — Our experts will have the answers
  • Plus 25 other seminars — see them all at

PIE 2015 offers an easy to follow program, clear concise descriptions of seminars, and the ability to quickly choose and attend the presentations you want.

As in the past, PIE 2015 leads the pack with networking, exhibits, and knowledge.

Plus, we have it on good authority that the weather in Chicago for PIE will be in the 60s.


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