Grace Periods at Parking Meters — That Train has left the Station

Oakland, Ca, is known for strange ideas from its government. After all, its just down the road from Berkeley, and you know what that means.

Now the city council has mandated a grace period for parkers.  You get an additional 5 minutes if you use a P and D machine (its easy for the enforcement officer to compute this by looking at the P and D receipt in the car window) but life gets complicated if you park at a single space meter.  Money quote:

The basic idea is that a parker will get a break, rather than a ticket, if they return to their car while an officer is writing up a ticket, even if the time on the meter had been expired for a long period, Brunner said. However, an officer could give a ticket to someone only a minute after their time expired if the person wasn’t around at that time, she said.

Let me get this straight — if you aren’t around, there really isn’t a grace period, since the officer can’t know when the meter went to ‘violation.’ If you do show up while the officer is writing the citation, then they will void it, no matter how long you have parked there. In other words, keep your eye out and when the officer walks up, run over and plead your case. Now that’s consistent.

So if the officer sees the meter in violation, but is going to write a couple of other tickets before he gets to your car, maybe drop in at a local coffee shop for a cuppa, and spends 15 minutes doing so but you walk up while he is writing your ticket, you have won the ticket lottery. He simply tears up the tickets, but leaves it on the two cars before you.

This is a transparent way for the city to attempt to prevent altercations between the PEO and the citizen.  But it seems to me that it actually does the opposite. Doesn’t it send a message that the city doesn’t want confrontation, but is more than willing to slip a ticket to someone who isn’t present at the time of the writing. What does that mean?

Grace periods in off street locations came about because 40 years ago the clocks in ticket dispensers and cash registers at the gates tended to drift and people could be overcharged.  That issue is gone with on line systems and central clocks.  There may be other reasons (long exit times, turn around graces) to provide a grace, but technology’s failing isn’t one of them.

The same is true on street. The article notes that people claim their watches show a different amount of time has passed than the meter. Meters should be periodically checked and verified to ensure they aren’t logging 45 minutes as an hour, but frankly, this is not a real issue with meters that have been manufactured in the past couple of decades.

So lets have the conversation that the officer has with the driver when she is stopped when writing a ticket in Oakland.

Driver: Hey, that’s my car.

Officer: Whoops, sorry sir, I didn’t realize this was your car. Here, I will rip up the ticket.

Driver:  Damn Straight you will. I’m here to tell you that I get an extra five minutes.

Officer:  Thank you sir, for pointing out the law. Did you have a nice cup of coffee over at Starbucks? I saw you there fifteen minutes ago when if first noted this meter was red.

Driver: Makes no nevermind, copper, I’m here, you are still writing, void the ticket.

Officer: Yes sir, happy to comply.

Does this make any sense at all. I don’t know what kind of meters they have in Oakland, but many meters had the ability to give a list times money was added and the time they went into violation. In those cases its petty easy to check just when the meter went into violation and compare it to the time the citation was written.

Politicians. They want to give five minutes grace. What about the person that walks up in six minutes.  They can say “I was only late by a minute and got a ticket anyway.”  They have just moved the goal posts, made enforcement more difficult, and won’t get the good PR anyway. See my next post on what’s happening in LA


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