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Monday, June 10, 2013
In recent months parking in downtown Roanoke has been called “a pain” and “a free pain.” At least in the market area it may not remain free much longer. The city is considering a parking meter pilot project.
But even without meters, the notion of free on-street parking is a bit of a misnomer. If you’ve ever paid a ticket for overtime parking, you realize what a pain in the wallet it can be. Consider my recent experience.
On May 30 just before 10 a.m., I parked my 18-year-old sedan in front of the newspaper building for a short-notice, all-hands meeting. The curbside spot was in a 30-minute zone.
The important meeting turned into a series of important meetings that day and I forgot that I’d parked on the street until I was leaving that evening.
“Oh, shoot!” I thought as I headed out the door. “I bet I got a parking ticket.”
I was half right. Underneath the driver’s side windshield wiper were two tickets. The first was for $20. The second was for $30.
Two? It seemed excessive.
For example, if you’re caught pickpocketing someone and his wallet has $50 in it, the cops will quite righteously charge you with theft. But they won’t charge you with 50 counts of stealing $1, or two counts of stealing $25.
In other words, each violation of the law counts as a single offense, right? That day, I had left my car on the street for longer than 30 minutes precisely once.
There’s no argument here that I didn’t owe the city $20 for the first ticket. But $30 for the second ticket, at 12:46 p.m.? It seemed like I had a legitimate beef. So I went over to city hall to make my case.
I spoke to a pleasant fellow in Billings and Collections, Parking Coordinator Randy Simmons.
I explained the issue and made my argument. “What I’d like you to do is void this second ticket,” I told him.
Simmons said he understood my concern. But he proceeded to say that I didn’t understand the law.
The Roanoke City Code gives parking ticket police the right to put more than one ticket on a car if the car hasn’t been moved after the initial parking violation ticket, he noted.
A third ticket, if you get one, will be for $45.
“So what you’re saying is, I’m lucky I didn’t get a third ticket,” I said to Simmons. “Because the meter maid could have swung by again and again, and given me a ticket each time?”
You could look at it that way, he said. But three tickets in one day is very rare, he added.
Simmons explained that the city adopted the subsequent-violation tickets some years ago because Roanoke used to have too many parking scofflaws who otherwise were willing to park overtime for the price of a single ticket.
Beginning last July, the city also raised its base parking ticket prices. The first ticket used to be $10 and now it’s $20. In the fiscal year that ends this month, they expect to collect $239,000 in parking fines.
Simmons encouraged me to fill out an appeal form, which I did.
He said his office would call or send me an email with the outcome.
On the way out the door I paid the first ticket, for $20.
Later that afternoon, Simmons called me at work. “Your appeal has been denied,” he said. That was a Friday. So last Monday I wrote a $30 check for the second ticket, sealed it in the little yellow envelope, and slipped it into a collections box across Church Avenue from City Hall.
It was my bad. I was ignorant of the law. And we all know that’s no excuse. I got clipped for a total of $50.
Here’s the thing, though: If you’re reading this, no longer are you ignorant of that law. Now you know. Don’t let this happen to you.
Because if you do, lots more dollars will be flowing from your pockets into Roanoke’s coffers.
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