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October 11, 2012

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Recently the City announced that CARTA has turned over parking enforcement duties to third party administrator Republic Parking starting this month. Seems that our City administration and CARTA are having trouble keeping up with the demand of placing revenue-generating yellow slips on cars illegally parked or those sitting next to expired meters.  

The revenue derived from parking citations last year was about $480,000-ish. CARTA will now pay Republic Parking a flat fee of $20-some-odd-thousand annually for the next five years plus expenses, including salaries for parking enforcement personnel, in order to single-handedly handle meter maid duties. The remaining monies collected will go straight to the City. According to officials, these types of arrangements with private administrators are becoming more and more typical in cities across the country.

Meter maids are quite possibly one of the most hated species of our genus. It’s widely known that they eat their young. I mean, really, you’d have to have that sort of heartless demeanor to justify a career of handing out $11 tickets to poor, mean-well souls who couldn’t make it back to their meter just in time to drop another quarter in.

Maybe that’s why CARTA and Republic Parking also announced that they’ve come up with a new breed of meter maid they call - “ambassadors.” In addition to cracking down on parking scoff laws with ticket book and wheel boot at the ready, these do-gooders will also have in their enforcement arsenal informative pamphlets on tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants in the downtown area. I can see it now:

TOURIST: “What are you doing? The meter expired as I was walking up to my car!” AMBASSADOR: “Sorry sir, just a helpful city ambassador doing my job. Oh, I see you’re from Kansas. I have an uncle in Topeka.” TOURIST: “We’re from KC, just down here visiting you’re amazing downtown and ‘makin’ it rain’ in your local economy with thousands of dollars including – let me see that - $11 to Republic Parking, whoever that is.” AMBASSADOR: “In addition to the citation, here’s a brochure on the Lost Sea and might I suggest a nice place for dinner?”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you don’t feed meters or park illegally then you’re setting yourself up for a costly citation or, if you’ve already accumulated three unpaid fines, the boot. But that doesn’t lessen our inherent disdain for finding those yellow bastards on our windshield when we didn’t want to get up in the middle of our movie at the Majestic just to donate another quarter to the City – no matter how friendly the Ambassadors are.

Part of the problem is that pay lots, also owned and operated by Republic Parking, have the perception of being too expensive. I don’t care if a lot space is as cheap as $3, we will circle the block for hours just to find that meter spot that takes a shitload of quarters. And when the time allotted by those quarters runs out, we better be at the ready to pump another shitload of quarters in or we’ll get an $11 ticket. Meanwhile that $3 lot space with no time limit sits there right next to our meter, empty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of pay lots. In fact, I’m not an advocate of paying to park at all. I live here. I know where you can park without paying. And if that’s not an option, I know the cheapest spots to park my ride. But I do miss the days back in the 80’s when you didn’t have to be so careful. In fact I don’t think I ever bothered to feed a meter until that damn Aquarium opened.

That’s one thing New Yorkers don’t have to bother with – parking meters. You won’t find them there. I guess the thinking there is, “hey, if you can find a place to park, you deserve it for as long as you want.” I wish the same were true around here.

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October 11, 2012

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