Problems With The Meter Maid - And Response (3)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I've been reading with interest the stories about CARTA's struggles with budget issues and some of the possible solutions to shortfalls. As someone who occasionally rides a bus and recognizes the need for public transportation, especially for poor people, I have been glad to read of efforts to save the system. One thing I learned is that there is talk of increasing parking meter fees in order to increase revenue. No problem, from my point of view. I am concerned however that there might be a little sneaky stuff going on. Somebody is trying to raise revenues to which they have no right.

Yesterday morning, at about 7:40 I parked my car outside a downtown eatery while my wife and I enjoyed breakfast. There was a parking meter, clearly marked as operational between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. I made a mental note to go out and feed the meter a few minutes before 8. At about 7:50 as my wife and I awaited breakfast, a very helpful person walked by my table and asked if my car was parked outside the door, and then he told me I was getting a ticket. Confused, as I knew I wasn't illegally parked, I stood, walked out the door and found not one, but two parking officers diligently laboring to write me a ticket for illegal parking. I asked, "Is something wrong?" One of the officers informed me that my meter was expired. I told her that it was my understanding that the meter did not require feeding until 8 a.m. She told me that I was wrong as I walked toward the meter. I pointed at the meter, where it says "Hours of operation 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday" and told her about it. Embarrassed I think, she said something like, "Oh, I forgot. We get to work at 7 O'clock."

I was pretty ticked off. If I had not shown up, I certainly would have gotten an undeserved $10 ticket and would have probably not had any way to defend myself. Upon returning to the restaurant I was told that this kind of thing occurs regularly outside this restaurant. Tickets are being written before 8 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m.

Now, I know that CARTA get revenues from the parking meters, but I'm not sure who gets the revenues from parking tickets. Apparently some entity is getting money they don't deserve by bending the law. Is that fraud?

Regardless, there are some questions to be asked. First, why would anyone be out there writing tickets before 8 a.m. or after 4:30 p.m. since all the meters have the same hours of operation? Second, why does it take two officers to write one ticket? Third, if the meters all start at 8 a.m., as I believe they do, why do the officers start work at 7 a.m? Wouldn't a 7:30 a.m. start give them enough time to get paid for drinking their first cup of coffee before beginning enforcing parking laws?

I truly hope that the local government and CARTA can work out a way to continue to offer public transportation to the Chattanooga community as well as to the many visitors that honor us with their presence. If that means that those of us who are blessed enough to own our own vehicles have to pay a little more to park, that's OK with me. However, I hope that whoever is responsible for the enforcement of parking laws, especially where marked meters are involved, will make sure that this kind of abuse is ended immediately.

Leland Stewart
Chattanooga
landestewart@comcast.net

* * *

I agree with the letter about the meter maids. They do write before and after the time on the meter.

I went to the Chattanooga Theater Centre and parked in the lot at 7 p.m. The parking enforcement was in the lot near my car. I had my theatre parking pass on the dash. At 7:03 I had a ticket.

I think Tom Dugan has been given way too much power and why should CARTA have the meter maids in the first place? They have always worked for the Chattanooga Police Department and they should remain there if they are enforcing laws. Who gave him the authority to put up all the parking meters in North Chattanooga and charge for a city parking lot? What has that got to do with running a bus company?

They said at the time it was to raise money to build the new parking garage in North Chattanooga. And when it is paid for will the parking meters go away? I think not.

Every time Dugan gets low on money he threatens to cut out the busiest bus routes he has because he knows the public will get mad and say "don't do it" and then he gets what he wants. If he needs to raise the bus rates, then raise them. But don't make everyone in town pay for a service they do not use.

I have not ridden a bus in 30 years. I would if I didn't have a car, or if it was more convenient for me, but it isn't so I do not want to pay to ride something I am not using. If you need more money, then charge for the shuttle bus, raise the rates for riding the bus, and give the meter maids and everything associated with them back to the police department where they belong and stop the scare tactics making people think they are not going to have a way to work. Doing police work is not a job for a bus company.

When you said you were going to cut buses to the main places people ride the buses that was the final straw for me. I think that is just bullying. Again, want to know why CARTA should have the meter maids if they are in such financial strain and why people let CARTA continue bullying the public with their scare tactics.

Linda Weathers

* * *

Leland,

I witnessed a similar situation earlier this week on Walnut Street. It was 7:50 and a team of meter maids were already writing up people for tickets. I know for a fact that the people receiving the tickets all come out a couple of minutes before 8 a.m. and drop a quarter in the meters.

I can understand if they need the money from parking fees, I can understand if the employee made an honest mistake while training in their job, but if they were told to show up before 8 a.m. and start writing tickets, let’s just say it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

Matthew Craigge
Chattanooga

* * *

I cannot agree more with the previous posters on this subject. One day during this past spring semester at UTC, I parked my car on McCallie Avenue at exactly 3:40 p.m. I put a quarter in the meter, which is an hour's worth of time. Here's a simple math problem. If it's 3:40 p.m., what time will it be in one hour? The answer....10 minutes after the meter maids should have stopped ticketing. However, when I returned to my car, sure enough, I saw that little ugly yellow envelope stuck under my windshield wiper.

Just about a month ago, I was at the Lowes on Highway 153. When I was walking in, I noticed two meter maids writing tickets in the parking lot for people who were illegally parked. What I noticed next absolutely disgusted me, and basically caused me to lose all respect for meter maids. One of the maids was parked in a handicapped space, and the other was parked in a clearly-marked "no parking" zone (there were plenty of open, normal parking spaces in the lot). These were not police officers responding to an emergency; these were simply people whose sole job is to write tickets. There is no need whatsoever for them to show blatant disregard for the laws they are required to abide by just as you and I are. The fact that they acted this way shows that they truly believe parking laws do not apply to them. Wouldn't it be nice if the law actually applied to everyone? You know, the way it's actually supposed to?

Dallas Cole
Chattanooga
Dallas-Cole@hotmail.com


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