Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tricked And Trapped On Washington Ave. SE

The City of Minneapolis appears to use calculated, deliberate ploys to write tickets and tow vehicles on Washington Ave. SE, and area frequented heavily by students and out-of-town visitors. I've fallen for their little scam myself. Here's how it works.

You pull up to a meter on Washington Ave. SE. You see other people parking there, so you figure it's OK to park. You check the meter to see if you really have to put in money. The meter says it is enforced from Mon-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and then lists a bunch of holidays when parking is NOT enforced. (The phrase "University holidays" is tricky and ambiguous, too, but let's concentrate on the big stuff)

If you glanced at a sign on the street, you'd see a big yellow sign repeating information from the meter, and warning you. METERS ENFORCED MON-SAT UNTIL 8 p.m. Maybe you check your watch and think, OK, it's 2:30 p.m. so I definitely need to pay, but if I keep feeding quarters in the meter I could stick around here and shop until 8 p.m, and then parking would be free after that. Cool.

So you put in your money and go off to shop at the University Bookstore, eat in a restaurant, or whatever. You come back an hour later. And your car is GONE.

It turns out there is lawyer-like fine print. You won't find it on the meter itself. You won't find it on the big yellow sign which warning you about meter enforcement until 8pm. If you look at a nearby pole with five--seriously, count 'em--FIVE signs mounted to it, you'll see the fine print on the third sign down.


This sign just fades into all the visual clutter and, in effect, contradicts the meter itself and the big yellow sign at the top of the pole, which would lead any reasonable person to conclude the meters require payment from 8 a.m to 8 p.m., but if you pay you can park there, and if you get caught not paying, well, you'll spend $35 to $40 on a ticket.

Every day except Sunday, the parking enforcement comes out there and collects a bountiful harvest of revenue. Almost always gets towed.

This is what we get from the City of Minneapolis. BOOBY TRAPS created for the benefit of revenue collection and towing companies. Once I saw a car being hauled away with its car alarm going, as though crying out for help.

How would this be fixed? Well, besides the idea I keep harping on...personal email and text message alerts for individual car owners, warning of impending tows...the messed up and confusing situation on Washington Ave. SE needs to be clarified and un-clutted by affixing small individual signs to each meter pole, bearing the words "NO PARKING 7-9 AM, 3-6 PM, Mon-Fri.

Of course, the light rail will take care of it all when it runs down the middle of Washington Ave. SE and over the Washington Avenue Bridge. We'll lose all that parking...and the cars will try to find other spots to park, creating a towing nightmare.

Yes, the "towing nightmare" I alluded to in St. Paul does stretch into Minneapolis along the planned light rail route, and it goes through the heart of my campus.

No comments: