Dear PoP – Parking Meter FAIL, literally

Photo by PoPville flickr user Madame Meow

Ugh, this is frustrating. I know it’s not bike related but perhaps DDOT could take a second to look into this…

“Dear PoP,

Have you fielded any complaints from DC drivers regarding “self-correcting” parking meters? These are meters that may initially accept coins but then display an “out of order” message, and thereafter stop registering the deposit of additional coins. Drivers are left with the choice of finding new parking spaces or calling in the meters as broken. If a driver decides to call in the meter as broken, and leave, even for 10 minutes, the driver faces the risk that the parking meter will “self-correct” during his/her absence. “Self-correcting” means that a parking meter resets itself, showing “00:00”, as if no money had ever been deposited. According to a recent Washington Examiner article, 74 percent of the City’s meters are designed to “self-correct.” Here is the rub. The City’s meter enforcement officials ticket cars at meters that have self-corrected; to them, the cars appear to have been parked at functioning meters and that their drivers have not deposited the any money.

In my particular case, I deposited 75 cents at a meter outside Whole Foods on P St., NW. The meter then displayed out of order. I called the meter in as broken, was given a confirmation number by the City, and was told I could park at the broken meter for up to two hours. Returning to my car 15 minutes later, I found a $25 ticket. I appealed the $25 fine and the City rejected it, on the grounds that the City had checked for “complaints, outages or repairs during the time period the violation occurred” and had found none. In order to appeal that decision, DC regulations required that I pay the $25 fine and a $10 appeal fee. Last night I received a letter stating my payment was an admission of guilt and the City considers the case closed. I guess the City is now $35 closer to closing its several hundred million dollar budget gap…”

18 Comment

  • don’t trust the meters, parking enforcement personnel, or the City — not worth messing with broken meters, the number of which is astonishingly high. Being in the right or in the real world has no bearing on their actions or decisions. Better off finding another spot… always

  • I discovered myself parked at a broken meter, and I called 311 and reported it using the meter number inside the dome. 311 gave me a confirmation number which I noted by dialing it on my phone. (As a 6 digit number, it didn’t connect; but it stayed in my outgoing call-log.) After I came back to find a pink parking ticket, I contested it successfully, providing my confirmation number as evidence of “complaints, outages or repairs during the time period the violation occurred.”
    Basically, I remembered the meter number while I called 311 while walking from my parking spot to my destination, which was worth $35.

  • ah

    Isn’t the confirmation number of the call supposed to “prove” that the meter was broken? Even DDOT notes that the meters can ‘self correct”,a,1202,q,636870,dpwNav,%7C31202%7C.asp

    • @ah: I am the author of the letter to POP. The City indeed acknowledges that it has self-correcting meters. And yes, I was given a six-digit confirmation number, which I highlighted in my appeals to the City. It was clear from the City’s responses that my appeals were never read. Nonetheless, I find myself $35 poorer today.

      • This happened to me too. It wasn’t the money that bothered me in the end, it was the fact that the city was submitting false statements to the ticket appeal board, and calling me a liar, and I had no discovery or other method of proving that it was the city lying. Calls for a class action lawsuit.

      • I recently had the same experience – they obviously do not read the letters at all. My guess is that you’d have to actually show up in person, which would cost anyone with a job more than $35.

      • saf

        Contact your council member.

  • just carry a hammer. Bet it cant self correct that.

  • Has anyone tried to use the new pay-by-phone meter option? I parked at one when I didn’t have any coins and spent ten minutes on hold waiting to set up an account before I gave up. Fortunately there was no ticket waiting for me when I came back, but I found the whole experience pretty frustrating.

    • I’ve used it once. Took two minutes to set up an account and pay for a couple of hours parking. A nice alternative to carrying approximately 28 pounds of change in your pocket to pay for 15 minutes of parking time.

  • same thing happened to me! meter was up by van ness. this has never been an issue in other cities i’ve lived in. conclusion: keep circling til you find a working meter. or take transit, where you can.

    so, so, so annoying. why aren’t they this diligent about ticketing daytime parkers in residential zones?

    sidebar: what’s with the $10 appeal fee, anyway? seems like it’s just there to rub salt in the wound.

    • ah

      Or to deter frivolous appeals.

      I don’t believe you have to pay anything for the first-level “hearing” to contest the ticket in the first instance.

  • Parking enforcement in this city is a scam. Earlier this year I received two parking tickets on the same day for parking without a permit. Two problems: 1) I did have a permit clearly displayed, and 2) one of the tickets was issued at a time of day when no permit is required.

    It has been literally impossible to resolve this issue with the city.

    It’s pretty obvious this system is designed to make people give up and pay, whether the ticket is valid or not.

  • Usually when I call in a broken meter I then put a sign in the windshield that says, “Broken Meter, Confirmation #xxxxxx” and so far I haven’t gotten any tickets for parking at a broken or self-correcting meter.

    But I did once win an appeal when I was towed and ticketed from a just-posted “emergency no parking” zone. The tow truck put my car in the middle of another no parknig zone, and the car was re-ticketed. Ridiculous, but I won that one. Still cost me a lot of my time.

    I lost an appeal the time I was towed from Pennslyvania Ave during rush hour — I was in one of the House Office Buildings at a hearing on DC representation and didn’t want to leave. The District pretty much ignored my long-winded reasoning about taxation without representation on that one, and I concede I was blocking up a rush hour lane. And thankfull they only towed me around the corner and not to an impound lot.

  • I usually park on Monroe between 14th and 16th, and for a while last fall DC Public Works (or somebody) was digging up the road to put in some kind of utility line. I rarely drive, so I don’t usually notice when people put up Emergency No Parking signs. The construction zone for the utility line moved quickly, and over the course of a week, my car was in the way.

    When I went out a few days later to get my car, it was gone. I called everybody in town that might know where the car was (I didn’t think it was stolen), but nobody had a clue. My flaw in logic here was to assume that only the DC Parking Enforcement would tow cars that were in the way of a construction project, and that they would have a record of any “courtesy tows”. They didnt, and didnt care.

    At this point, I figure the only way to get my car bac was to report it stolen, which I did. I continued to call anybody I could think of, and finally someone recommended I contact someone in charge of construction projects. This eventually led me to the Monroe St project foreman, who knew the manager that probably had my car towed. He was on vacation.

    I waited over the weekend for him to get back, and finally got in touch with the construction manager. He gave me an address to check (only a few blocks away on 11th). I checked – the car wasn’t there. Why? Because they sweep on Mondays, and my car was in the way… again.

    I called Parking Enforcement again, and this time they had a record of my car and its most recent location. During its travels, I received 3 parking tickets and was towed twice, had to report the car stolen (which accomplished nothing), and then had to PROVE TO THE COPS THAT IT WAS MY CAR before I could drive it again, otherwise I would have been driving a stolen vehicle.

    So, yeah, I’m not surprised about the parking meters.

  • I’ve had some success reviving “self correcting” meters. Try waiting a few seconds and then put in a coin of a different denomination. It sometimes works!

  • Whatever happened to the meters that accepted credit cards? Those don’t really need to correct themselves. I came to rely on them in front of my school in Brookland, but then one day they were gone, replaced by coin operated meters. The one smart thing DC did for parking was taken away from me, and caught without any coinage, I was forced to find one of the many broken meters on the street and report it. Luckily, I didn’t get ticketed as I put a note in my window with the confirmation number on it.

  • Allt the meters out front of Busboys and CIty Vista appear to be broke too. We sat there the other day at Taylor and saw 7 people tell the meter man that the meters were working and he still ticketed them.

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