Pittsburgh parking, a short story

Caught in a Catch 22, at least I am not alone

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Oct. 16: Sunny day. Drive to school for class (usually walk). Struggle to read meter. IMPOSSIBLE! Get help from student with younger eyes. Enter license plate number and get receipt (time: 1:54 p.m.). Go back to car -- ticket on windshield (time: 1:52 p.m)!

Oct. 17: Email Dan Gilman, chief of staff for Councilman Bill Peduto, to complain about problems with the meters (second complaint) and the injustice of the ticket. Gilman forwards complaint to David Onorato, director of Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

Oct. 19: Onorato responds to Gilman with a list of changes that the Parking Authority is considering to improve the visibility of the parking-meter screens. He also notes, "If a patron believes they received a ticket while in the process of utilizing the pay machine, please have them contact our office with the appropriate documentation, and we will certainly take a look at the information."

Oct. 19: I write to Onorato explaining the problems I had reading the meter and enclose the ticket (time received: 1:52 p.m.) and my receipt for payment (time on receipt: 1:54 p.m.).

Oct. 26: Wife and I fly to New York for a conference. Sandy roars in and NYC airports close down.

Nov. 2: Four flight cancellations! Return to Pittsburgh by Mega Bus early a.m. Nov. 2.

Nov. 2: Check mail in my CMU office. Contains a U.S. Postal Sevice "We Care" envelope with a damaged letter from Director Onorato dated Oct. 23. He writes, "We have been made aware by the public that they are having difficulty reading some screens, at times, due to the sunlight. We have been investigating and working to improve this issue." He notes that my ticket was "automatically entered into the Parking Court system" and that the Parking Court had the "adjudication capabilities." "[We] are recommending," he comments, "that a court hearing be scheduled for this particular ticket." He also observes, "the Parking Court magistrates have been very understanding when hearing these types of cases."

By the date I receive the letter, the fine scheduled has increased from $30 if paid by Oct. 28, then rises to $53 if paid by Nov. 17. It is Nov. 2!

Oct. 23, Nov. 5, Nov. 13: Articles and letters to the editor appear in the Post-Gazette about difficulties with the new meters -- at least I am not alone!

Nov. 13: Parking Court schedules me for a hearing on Dec. 11 -- and the parking fee will not increase to the higher level!



Joel A. Tarr is Richard S. Caliguiri University Professor of History and Policy at Carnegie Mellon University (jt03@andrew.cmu.edu).


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