Its Just not Fair! Grace Periods for Parking Meters


Its Just not Fair! Grace Periods for Parking Meters

Toronto has a grace period for parking citations.  If the citation is written within 10 minutes of the meter expiring, it can be voided. Read about it here.

Which raises the obvious question, how does one know that this has occurred. With legacy ticketing methods (pull out your pencil, officer and write the ticket) and legacy meters (insert coin here) there is no way to know.

But, as they say, technology thou art a heartless bitch.  (OK, I know the original quote was about gravity, but it works.)

With Pay and Display or Pay by Space, and citation writing equipment that time stamp the tickets, its easy to institute such a program.  Toronto, it seems uses P and D.  Fair Enough.

I just question the entire idea of grace periods. If you wanted to do a grace period, why not simply sell 10 minutes more time that the amount purchased. If they buy an hour, give them 70 minutes, if they buy 15 minutes, give them 25, etc. It seems to me that by giving a grace period that is ethereal, we are setting ourselves up for  argument after argument.

Even with technology involved, as in Toronto, who is to say that the clock in the P and D machine isn’t running off a different clock than the one in the officer’s hand held? I can hear the argument — “But I was walking up just as the 10 minutes clicked in.  The officer saw me but wrote it anyway.”  Or  “They were standing around waiting for the grace to expire so they could write the ticket.” Or my personal favorite “Its just not fair, they should give us a 15 minute grace period.  Look how long the lines are at Starbucks.”

There is no win in the grace period game. Buy an hour of parking, be back in an hour. If you are not, you roll the dice that someone will be there to slap a citation on your car. The real world isn’t fair — Even Walt Disney knew that: Bambi’s mom gets a bullet, Dumbo’s is burned in a fire. Its how life works.  Winter is cold dark and harsh, but Spring does come, eventually.

The only way to be “fair” is to be as consistent as possible. If its politically expedient to have a grace period, add it on to every transaction. Simple, elegant, and no one needs to adjudicate it.   When the parker starts yelling, the officer simply says, “Gee, madam, when you purchased your 60 minutes, we provided you with 70 to handle situations just like this.” A nice smile, a quick slip of the citation under the wiper, and we are on out way.

H/T Dan


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John Van Horn

One Response

  1. Using technology to add the grace period onto the time purchased is great, but it doesn’t address the real reason for putting in a grace period, which is the perception of the public. “How dare you issue me a ticket when I was only 3 minutes expired, you evil meter people?”

    When you put in P&D meters, people know exactly how long their time was expired via a large font number on a receipt they have in their hand. If it’s within a couple of minutes, they get really pissed, justified or not.

    If you put in a grace period using the technology that automatically sets the expiration time for 10 minutes longer than they paid for, half the people won’t know that because they won’t read and it doesn’t change the circling shark perception. You can probably calm them down when they call, appeal or accost the meter officer, but by then they’re already angry, which is really what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

    If, however, you put in a grace period that has the effect of showing them visually that more than 10 minutes went by before they were given a citation, complaints, indignation and the perception of circling sharks pretty much goes away.

    Last time I put in a P&D system, we got hammered with complaints until we put in a policy to avoid issuing tickets until the receipt had been expired for 15 minutes. After about 6 months, we reduced it to 10 minutes and a year later reduced it to 5 minutes. We never publicized the practice, but the minute we put it into place, the complaints stopped.

    It’s all about the perception!

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