Thursday, August 28, 2008

Boulder Parking: A Sort Of Protection Racket?

I've heard of this, but I just experienced it directly today.

Boulder is running a scam on it's citizens and as far as I'm concerned it's a form of parking ticket enforcement fraud.

Know what this feels like? It feels like a revenue generating operation that's a tiny bit like a protection racket.

In an approx. 30 day period from mid June to mid July, the meter maids gave me three $15 tickets, and within 45 days of the last ticket, turned it into $180 in fines and booted my car (another $40 charge). $220.00.

Not a bad hall for 3 slips of paper and 6 minutes of meter maid time. How many times does this happen in a day? How much revenue does this generate for the city?

What' the ROI for the city? I'm betting: really really good.

Interestingly, this was all with zero warning. No letters (at least none that I got), no warning stickers on the car, nothing.

Apparently, Boulder enforces the 'laws of the state' around parking much more stringently than it does, for instance, laws about smoking pot in public (ever been to the annual '420' event?). I'm not against the 420, but it's "against the law" too. Do they get 'tickets'? Nope.

Sooo... what heinous crime did my car commit?

I have no front license plate. The reason is there is no place to put it (no plate holder , no holes for screws). I just got it a few months ago and haven't gotten around to buying a drill and putting the front plate on yet.

This is one of those 'you have to look for it' kind of tickets. You have to walk around the car and look for no plate. I park in the same general area downtown and apparently I've caught the eye of the meter maid who own this particular turf.

Why the need for front license plates? I think it has to do with red light cameras that take a picture of your front license plate and send you a really big fine in the mail. Apparently cities all over the country (like Boulder) are adding more of these cameras to their red lights and shortening the yellow light span to produce more tickets.

Oh.. you think a city would never do that? Think again:
In fact, six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the yellow light cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. Those local governments have completely ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.
Boulder uses traffic tickets to create substantial amounts of revenue. They sent out over 10,000 red light tickets last year alone.

Back to parking tickets.

Normally I pay things like parking tickets right away (simplifies life) but these three tickets got put into a cubby hole and I simply forgot about them. Simple human mistake.

I don't even mind paying a penalty. Say, 25% of the value of the ticket....but $180 for $45 in parking tickets? All within 60 days of getting the tickets and then booting my car with no warning?

What the hell is that about? That's about 1600% annual interest rate. Even the IRS doesn't dream of doing something that outrageous. The only people that get rates like that are loan sharks and, last time I looked, that's illegal.

And booting the car with no warning? That's the municipal equivalent of a loan shark 'breaking an arm' until you pay up.

If a business tried all that they'd be brought up on modified RICO charges.

I'm getting a new bumper sticker made up:

Boulder: Bring your pot but don't f**k with our meter maids.


Anonymous said...

I suppose I should not admit that I've now driven my car for over a year w/o the front plate (which lives in a storage well in the trunk along with the bracket for which there are no holes in my front bumper).
I'll keep it out of Boulder. When (see, I'm ever hopeful) I come visit you, I'll park somewhere else, and have you pick me up. {grin}

Anonymous said...

I too have endured the wrath of the no-front-plate tickets (no factory ability to mount one on the Audi), as well as the heinous increase if one forgets to cover within the short window cycle. If only businesses could charge Net14 terms with such alarming repercussions for being late. I finally rigged a magnetic setup for the plate, just for parking in Boulder. I also found garages to be safe...for now.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...