We have ‘Traffic School’, Why not ‘Parking School?’


We have ‘Traffic School’, Why not ‘Parking School?’

In my previous blog I discussed the issue that cities were writing parking tickets to increase revenue and not necessarily to protect that asset, parking, or to change the way people look at parking, and parking tickets. More and more, in large cities particularly, parking fines are a major revenue source, a ‘tax’ if you will to generate general fund revenue.

I once asked a parking manager in a major city in the LA area whether parking tickets were to protect the asset or to generate revenue. He said “on the record or off the record”. On the record, to protect the asset and ensure parking for businesses in the downtown area. Off the record, to generate revenue.

Clyde may not like it, but it is a dirty little secret.

I had a PEO tell me he was the most hated person in any room. You don’t hate the CHP when they give you a speeding ticket, why hate the PEO when he gives you a parking ticket. When the Highway Patrol pulls you over and gives you a ticket for 20 over the speed limit, you know, even if you don’t want to admit it, that you broke the law. The officer has you dead to rights. You may not like it, but you know what you need to do. Pay your fine, go to traffic school (on line if possible) and get on with your life.

When you receive a parking ticket it is usually an anonymous event. There is no PEO, just a piece of paper on your window. You have no ability to state your case. “But officer, I was only three minutes late.” “My Doctor’s appointment ran long,” or “Are you sure the meter is running OK?” No explanation, no comment, no nothing. Just that infamous piece of paper with its glaring envelop under your wiper blade.

Once, when receiving a speeding ticket, I was chatting with the officer and we were discussing the big trucks on the highway. He said that they all went 55mph. We both started to laugh. I commented that the comedy part of the ticket writing was over. He said I was a nice guy and knocked 10 MPH off my speed, saving me some big bucks. I still got the ticket, deserved, but didn’t feel so bad about it. I was dealing with a human being, not a faceless bureaucracy.

Parking tickets are so contentious that PEOs are often attacked, verbally and physically. The concern about this was so great in DC that they began a program where tickets were not left on vehicles, but mailed to the cars owner. The PEO could hide behind a tree, write the ticket, then slink off onto the next parking violation, thus completely dehumanizing the event.

I would like to propose a couple of ways to make the parking enforcement a tad more human.

  1. Track all the cars that receive parking tickets.
  2. The first time a car receives a parking ticket, give them a warning, explaining in detail what the infraction was (in English, not legalese) and tell them that next time they will receive a fine and tell them what the fine will be.
  3. Give the PEO some discretion. If a person has a legitimate excuse (Doctor ran long) give them a warning. The CHP can decide whether or not to issue a citation, why not a PEO?
  4. Provide alternate ways to pay off tickets. (Be creative, they could go to ‘ticket school’, pick up trash along side the road for a couple of hours, etc)
  5. Have the PEO take the time to explain why the meters and parking enforcement is important and how it benefits the merchants, the city and most important how it benefits the driver.
  6. Give parking awards. (Best parking job, best centering between the lines, you get the idea.)
  7. Begin a program to show how parking fees and fines pay for stuff like park benches, trash cleanups, street lighting, and the like (Don Shoup call your office.)

Most people just grumble and pay their fines. However many simply cannot pay. They don’t have the money. They live from paycheck to paycheck. Simply adding on fees and fines doesn’t do any good in changing their approach to parking, it makes the situation worse. If we provide alternatives, perhaps people will realize that parking isn’t a ‘right’ like freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

I know may of you will read this and think I’m crazy and I would love to hear from you.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

4 Responses

  1. sounds like a socialist scheme. if you exceed your parking time or don’t pay you deserve a ticket. no warnings no explanation.

  2. Sorry, traveling today, can’t defend myself ha ha. Great Article. There is a difference between managing Millions of dollars in revenue and managing millions of dollars in revenue. I’m going to hold my position. I think the people in the front do absolutely have pressure to collect but i am old enough to remember the audits that stated enforcement officers were not writing enough tickets and the A/R was in the kzillions. That will motivate anyone to try to collect.

  3. Has anyone ever done a comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of parking enforcement practices?

    Would be interesting to see and compare the actual impact of the various approaches used in different cities.

    Just curious

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