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Parking Ticket grace period unlikely to make a difference.

The NYC City Council approved a bill on Monday (11/16/09) that would provide a five-minute grace period to drivers who are late to feed a muni-meter or move their cars on street-cleaning days.  The five-minute period would apply to muni-meters, which control parking spaces and issue a receipt stating the time of expiration, and alternate-side parking rules, which require drivers to move their cars at a certain time for street cleaning. It would not apply to coin-operated meters, because there’s no mechanism available to tell when they expired.

Mayor Bloomberg vowed to veto the legislation..

Those for the legislation claim:

  • Drivers are tired of being hassled, especially in a tough economy.  About 280,000 tickets were issued in fiscal 2008 for alternate-side parking violations within five minutes of the required time, which corresponds to about one-quarter of all parking tickets issued in the city that year.
  • It’s good PR.  This city IS on your side…

Those against the measure and on Bloomberg’s side claim:

  • The bill will lead to chaos on the streets.  Judgment and grace aren’t things that can be legislated/codified.  Deadlines are codified and that is that.
  • The bill creates a perception that parking illegally is punishable only when a violation is blatant or to an extent excessive.  This potentially leads to more curbside arguments.

The Mayor says a grace period would only breed confusion in a system that is already ripe for confrontation. He questioned whose watch is going to be used to make all these judgment points.

I think the Mayor hit the nail on the head with his question about “whose watch”.  It proves that this entire issue is nonsense.  Parking Agents have been using their own judgment all along.  Muni-meter receipt is good until 8pm?  What stops an Agent from issuing a ticket at 7:59pm because they consider their watch a little slow?  Or because the Agent had a bad day or doesn’t like a bumper sticker on the car?  On the other hand, what leads an Agent to not issue a ticket in the same situation at 8:03pm?  In both cases the Agent simply gets to look at his watch and make a discretionary call.  His watch may be fast or slow.  He may be sympathetic and patient or the complete opposite.

Now this entire scenario will unfold surrounding 8:05 instead of 8:00 on the nose and it’s somehow supposed to make a difference?

The point is it’s been a “judgment” call all along, legislation or no legislation.

In any case, expect the legislation to pass.  The Council approved it by 47 to 2, a vote well in excess of the two-thirds support needed to override any veto Mayor Bloomberg is planning.

Also expect this to not make a difference in your life.  Cut it too close–whether it’s a time based violation or distance from a fire hydrant or crosswalk–and you increase the chances you’ll get a ticket.  Avoid parking tickets by parking smart and giving yourself buffers of both time and space, not by relying on some imaginary grace period that legislators are about to pass so they can look good in the eyes of their constituency.

Submitted by Scott Feifer