You’re Never Safe (from Parking Tickets)

Did you know that there is no day in which you cannot get a parking ticket?

And I’m not talking about something really egregious like wrongly parking in a handicapped spot.

San Francisco literally gives out tickets 7 days a week.

For example:

701 to 869 Clay Street has street sweeping Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from midnight to 5 am.

If you went to a bar in nearby North Beach or a hotel room party in the Hilton on Saturday night, you’d wake up to a nice $55 street sweeping ticket.

You can get tickets almost any time of day, for that matter.

Downtown generally has street sweeping late at night, with the rest of San Francisco generally in the early part of the day.

201 to 331 Chester Avenue, however, has street sweeping on Thursdays between 1 pm and 3 pm.

And if you don’t get caught by street sweeping between midnight and 3 pm, tow away zones take up the slack. There are 7 am to 9 am towaway zones, 4 pm to 7 pm towaway zones, 6 am to 11 pm towaway zones, etc etc.

The only hour you’re safe to park?

Right before midnight: 11 pm to midnight.

That’s the only time you can’t get hit for street sweeping, towaway zones, expired meter or commercial meters.

You can, however, still get a ticket for not curbing your wheels, or parking more than 72 hours.

I guess you can never be completely safe.

That’s what ParkingTicketStopper.com is for!

Try it for free!

We’ve now integrated the SFPark sensor data into our database – the result is a new feature where you’ll be able to see which blocks are legal parking at the present (or near future) time.

No more driving slowly around an unfamiliar area trying to see what the signs say.

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Why do parking tickets piss us off?

Parking Tickets.

There are few subjects which elicit as much emotion as universally as parking tickets.

Sure, you’ve got abortion. And Afghanistan/Iraq. And George W. Bush. And gay marriage. And…

Moving right along…

Anyway, parking tickets piss us off.

I think the reason is that the most common cause for getting a parking ticket is stupidity.

You didn’t look for the parking rules when you parked.

You forgot to set an alarm and/or when to move the car.

You forgot which day it was.

Another reason is ignorance. It isn’t quite the same as above; until you get your first incline parking ticket, you just have no clue that you can get fined for such a thing.

Yes, the DMV has test questions on it, but the DMV generally only nails you for things like speeding or running red lights. Does not turning your wheels fall into the same category?

Not for me to say.

The next reason for parking tickets pissing us off is the arbitrary nature of them.

Sure, many times we get parking tickets because we were stupid or ignorant.

But we also get parking tickets because of arbitrary crap.

My record?

I had a ‘spot’ where I always parked -had been using it for months.

It was a wonderful no restriction, street sweeping once a week spot – something which is now extinct in downtown San Francisco.

One day I go to retrieve the car after 4 days in order to go do some major grocery shopping.

The car has vanished!

As it turns out, the city of San Francisco decided to convert my no time restriction, street sweeping once a week into a 2 hour ‘Y’ residential zone, towaway 4 pm to 7 pm Monday through Friday block.

Basically they put up the sign, then they towed my car.

Was there a notice that there was a change going to occur? No.

Was there any way for me to know that this was going to happen – like a web site? No.

AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHH!

What was the most annoying, even beyond this nuclear level annoyance I received (and $500 worth of fines, etc)? I protested the ticket noting that I had parked before the restrictions changed, that there was no notice, etc etc.

The nice judge in the MTA office at Market and Van Ness acknowledged the fundamental problem with not having any way of knowing that the parking restrictions were about to change. He acknowledged the lack of warning. But he said his hands were tied.

AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHH!

What’s your worst parking story ever?

TKT STPR can’t fix the overnight changing of sign problem – though we’re looking into it – but we can help you avoid tickets due to ignorance or stupidity.

iPhone and Android versions both now available! Try it free today!

Or visit us at ParkingTicketStopper.com

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SFPark: The SkyNet of Parking Meters

If you’ve paid any attention at all when driving around San Francisco, you must have seen these new meters going up everywhere – at least downtown:

A San Francisco SFPark meter

What you may not have noticed is in the street:

The city of San Francisco has been quite open about what these new meters are supposed to do – at least in stage 1: to allow dynamic pricing in order to free up parking

What you may not know is about all of the other capabilities these new meters and their robotic servants confer.

1) In the old days (and old meters), the difference between an expired meter and a valid meter was fairly difficult to see:

valid – not expired – ‘old style’ meter

expired ‘old style’ meter

expired ‘old style’ meter from parking maid distance

You can see from above it isn’t that easy to tell expired from not-expired.

With SFPark, the difference is much more visible due to bright red or green LEDs which blink:

SFPark expired blinking lights (red, but not captured by video)

SFPark valid parking blinking lights (green, but not captured by video)

The video camera I’m using can’t seem to tell green from red, but the 1st and 3rd lights are red (expired) while the 2nd and 4th light are green (not-expired)

2) The magnetometer in the ground (the spot on the street above), the SFPark meter now knows when you’ve left, as well as when you’re still there.

This means that the SFPark meter can track such things as the 1 or 2 hour time limit for most meters – which today is almost never enforced.

This also means that the SFPark meter could (don’t know if they do) zero out unused time when the person who paid for parking leaves

3) The SFPark meters also accept both credit cards and SF Park cards. This is convenient, but what is not talked about is that the SFPark meters actually contain a wireless communication device. I don’t know exactly what, but it is almost certainly a text message type cellular device powered by the solar panels on the other side of the meter:

The communication device is necessary for credit card charges, at a minimum.

However, given that the SFPark meter can both talk and knows when you’re there/not there – is there any barrier to the meter actually calling a meter maid to itself in order to issue a ticket?

Again, I don’t know if this is possible. The only reason it would not be is because the solar panels can’t keep the communication device charged enough for this, but this seems unlikely since the same problem would apply to credit card charges.

Note that this ‘we know you’re parked’ paradigm can also be useful – the open spots revealed by the SFPark meters can technically be displayed for potential parkers.

We at ParkingTicketStopper.com are talking with the manufacturer of these meters in order to access this information – it would be a new (and easily added) capability for the TKTSTPR app.

Of course, that won’t help when SFMTANET turns intelligent and starts producing terminators…

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How does the city ticket thee? Let me count the ways…

A lot of people focus on expired parking meters as the way in which you get a parking ticket.

That’s actually not true.

There are at least 8 different ways you can get a ticket for a parking violation:

1) Expired parking meter. This is actually not even the most common way – at least in San Francisco

2) Street sweeping. Most streets in San Francisco – basically any street without too high a slope – gets swept at least twice a month. Downtown streets actually can get swept as often as every day, plus holidays.

3) Residential zone time limit violation. San Francisco has a large number of residential parking zones; residents can get a parking sticker which allows them to ignore these time limit violations, but the sticker doesn’t confer immunity to any of the other violations listed here. These time limits are typically 1 or 2 hours, but can be as high as 4 hours.

4) Tow away. Many downtown streets have tow-away zones in the morning and evening rush hours. These zones are for opening up extra lanes for traffic, but can also exist for other reasons such as library-mobile parking or bike commuter buses.

5) Incline parking. San Francisco is a hilly city – and SF city law states that drivers must curb their wheels when parking on any street with a 3% grade or higher (State law sets this level at 2%). While in my experience this is only enforced in a relatively few blocks, in reality 40% of San Francisco actually is at or above the 3% grade.

6) Commercial meters. Many parking meters, especially in the downtown area, are yellow or red. These are only usable by licensed commercial vehicle; anyone else gets a ticket. Generally this means 7 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, but there are many exceptions such as the 7 am to 3 pm Commercial meters in Chinatown.

7) Handicapped. San Francisco has handicapped spots on some streets. Don’t park here unless you want a really big parking ticket. They usually have a blue painted curb and a sign, but the sign may be broken/obscured.

8 ) Police/Fire/City zones. These are white painted (police/city) or red painted (fire) curbs in which only vehicles with the appropriate parking pass displayed can park.

9) Special events. Due to events such as the Pride Parade, Saint Patrick’s day parade, etc etc – there are specific blocks downtown  which are tow-away no parking zones in preparation for being setup areas for parades. This also applies to temporary permits for construction or moving.

This doesn’t include other ways such as expired registration (a $10 fix-it ticket), no front license plate (another $10 fix-it ticket), and so forth

As you can see, street parking in the city is a jungle.

You can avoid most of these by being alert – checking for signs not just near where you’ve parked, but along the block you’re on, but of course there is a lot to keep an eye on.

That’s what ParkingTicketStopper.com is for – our TKT STPR app can help you comply with the first 7 types of parking.

And as a note: The most common parking ticket received (as determined by city data) is the street sweeping violation.

In 2008, San Francisco issued 662,533 street sweeping tickets.

This compares with 531,297 parking meter violations.

There are only 400,000 vehicles registered in San Francisco with about 300,000 more coming in every day, so you can see just how often drivers get tickets.

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A Brave New World

This is the inaugural post for No More Tickets – a blog dedicated to the world of street parking and its associated world of parking tickets.

This world touches more than half (actually more like two thirds) of the people who live and drive in every major city. We park on the street for many reasons, but ultimately we park on the street because our cities don’t have enough private parking to contain all of us as well as all the visiting drivers coming in to work or play.

While street parking and parking tickets are not anything new, there are now unprecedented tools to help all of us who park on the street.

We’re going to need them, because of several unstoppable trends in the cities we live in.

The first of these trends is city deficits. There are many reasons for these deficits – this blog isn’t going to get into them. But these deficits mean the cities we live and park in are going to look for ever more ways to generate revenue, and parking tickets are a huge revenue source for every major city.

The second of these trends is technology. Just as the technology to help us find street parking and avoid parking tickets is improving, so too is the technology for cities to enforce their labyrinthine parking regulations.

The third trend is privatization. Atop the twin towers of deficit filling and parking enforcement technology, another trend is for the cities we live in to farm out concessions like parking ticket enforcement to for-profit entities – whether they are corporations or even sovereign wealth funds of other nations.

It is actually the last trend which poses the greatest danger.

There are many things we can stereotype a government worker as:

They may be poorly motivated. They may be less than competent. They may be bureaucratic.

But they’re not generally interested in squeezing you out of another dollar.

This won’t be true of for-profit entities, and having such entities be put in charge of monopolies like street parking is something which will affect all of us who must park on the street.

This blog is dedicated to educating new and old street parkers, and to keeping abreast of changes arising from the triple trends of city deficits, parking enforcement technology, and privatization.

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