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The Hub: The Trouble With Parking

"I got to the lot and stopped. There was the man in uniform no one wants to see – the parking enforcer. I saw the telltale ticket fluttering against my windshield."

Last week I took a drive to . I couldn’t find any free 2-hour spots along Elm Street, or on Main Street near the . So I rather than keep trolling for a spot, I decided to park in the municipal lot behind .

I grabbed a handful of quarters from my stash and went to pre-pay at the automatic parking kiosk. I dutifully entered my parking space number, inserted quarters and out popped my receipt. I paid for slightly less than two hours.

After spending time leisurely browsing at the , and splurging on Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘Why Read Moby Dick’ (lately I have shipwrecks on my mind, but that’s another story) I popped into and grabbed a cup coffee to go. Then I walked around, took a look at .

Finally, it was time to return to my car and head home. My break had lasted long enough. I got to the lot and stopped. There was the man in uniform no one wants to see – the parking enforcer. I saw the telltale ticket fluttering against my windshield. For a minute I thought maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe I was supposed to have put my receipt under the windshield wiper (it’s been a while since I’ve parked in that lot). I approached the officer.

“Did I get a ticket? I paid for a spot – was I supposed to leave it on the window?” I asked.

“Oh, no. Let me see. Please don’t make me feel bad, tomorrow is my birthday,” the officer answered.

He studied my ticket.

“You were eight minutes over,” he said.

What? Make him feel bad for giving me a ticket? Shouldn’t I be the one feeling bad? It cost me $15 for those 8 minutes – or $1.875 an hour to be exact. (I know, I used my calculator.)

I know the officer was simply doing his job. In fact, he was so polite and nice about everything that I found myself feeling sorry for him, and actually thanked him as he handed me my ticket.

When I got home I looked at the ticket and saw that you can supposedly pay online. That’s cool, paperless. So I logged on to the town's website, entered my ticket number and license plate number. Nothing.

Hmmmm. Okay, maybe it was too soon. I few hours later I tried again. Supposedly persistence pays off, but after getting an error message for what seemed like the zillionth time (but was really only the thirtieth time) I decided to go the old fashioned route. I took out my checkbook, and stuffed that and the ticket in the mail.

I know that at the train station if you park 5 minutes before 9 a.m. at the $4 spots you get ticketed $50.

In Fairfield, parking tickets range between $25.00 to $85.00. No online payment either, you have to mail a check in the envelope provided or by coming to the in person. Tickets must be paid within ten days of the date issued or additional penalties can result.

The town of offers a detailed explanation about parking permits and payment, but nowhere does it mention a grace period. The same goes for Darien.

I understand the need to enforce parking. I understand the concept of pay for space. But 8 minutes? Isn’t there something called a grace period? Would 10 – 15 minutes be too much?  Do any towns in Fairfield County give a grace period? No. No grace.

Christine E. February 11, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Why should you get a 'grace period'? Wear a watch and learn how to tell time. Grace Period's do nothing but give people a reason to be irresponsible. Maybe i'll pay my taxes on April 24th and not mention it to the IRS before I do it. Better yet, maybe i'll be 8 minutes late to work and see if my boss cares. Screw deadlines! I should have a grace period, right?
Thomas Soukup February 11, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I think the only grace you'll find is in church,sorry to say. You might want to shop on line. Often you pay no tax or shipping and there are discounts you don't otherwise find in the retail stores. Soon there will be plenty of parking spots.
Andrea February 11, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Well that first comment is snotty! I empathize...I got a ticket in South Norwalk for being a few minutes late (the parking officer was writing up the ticket in front of me). I had been in the coffee shop having tea with my children, and the service took longer than I expected. I was dissappointed that the town would give a ticket for patronizing their businesses, let alone I charging to park! I now think twoce before strolling around and going into shops where I have to pay a meter. I want to be able to take my time looking, shopping, and having tea - not watching the clock!
Eileen February 11, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Nice plug for the shops.....don't really see how what shops she visited impacts the story.
Christine E. February 11, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Why is it snotty to expect people to follow rules? Why can't anyone just accept when they make a mistake instead of coming up with excuses? Everyone seems to think tickets are 'unjust' because they were only a few minutes late. What happened to accountability? You chose to put an allotted amount of time in the meter. You could have put in more time, but you didn't. You could have added more time, but you chose not to. Now you're complaining that you got a ticket for being late. Whose responsibility is it to make sure you're on time other than you? The "I don't feel like paying attention to the time" excuse is kind of silly, no? Parking rules need to be enforced because, if they aren't, people who work in the area, or commute, or live in an apartment will park in a spot for 12 hours at a time, abuse the priviledge, and there will be no spots available for you to do your shopping, strolling and patronizing of local businesses.
Teach1 February 11, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Hello author, I feel your pain about the ticket. Just a side note said with a smile: >>>It cost me $15 for those 8 minutes – or $1.875 an hour to be exact. (I know, I used my calculator.)<<< I think you need a new calculator. :)
Cathryn J. Prince February 11, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Thanks Teach1, you are one of the few who actually understands this was a tongue & cheek piece and that I'm not exactly living a life of high crime and misdemeanors! :)
Ed Tyrrell February 11, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Shop Ridgefield!!!
Tom Falconieri February 11, 2012 at 11:54 PM
The issue is simple. The meters are their for one reason and one reason only. MONEY. either way you pay to park. If you over shoot you pay through the nose. So normally i shop danbury plenty of parking no meters and the hell with ridgefield or these other snooty towns. Now i shop on line and i dont have to pay taxes on the junk i order. Isn't technology grand. The UPS guy gets the ticket. Just saying. It is simple you get the government you vote for. SHOP ANYWHERE OTHER THAN RIDGEFIELD!!!!
Carol Greene February 12, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I know this is tongue and cheek but those of us who grew up in NYC learn the parking lesson fast- after learning to drive I parked my parent's car on the wrong side of the street and got a $35 ticket (in the 1980's- probably much more now), and my parents made me pay. You don't make that mistake twice. No grace periods in the world of parking, unfortunately.
sebastian dangerfield February 12, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Christine-- How about this?---Some towns charge nothing for parking. For those towns who are looking to charge 1 dollar an hour--(thats what they apparently think the time is worth) then for 8 minutes 15 dollars seems too high. If the author got a 2 dollar ticket--or roughly 30 times what the town has valued parking at, it would seem less egregious. The towns need to balance the needs of its merchants. These parking rules are there for merchants. IN towns like Darien, they dont want people parking in a downtown space and getting on train to New York. But in Ridgefield and New Canaan they generally park to shop. If you penalize people too much for shopping in that town, it serves no one. I avoid Norwalk, for example, as much as I can---their parking for restaurants and shopping is too onerous. So the police dept offsets the cost of hiring an officer--(big deal) while its restaurants suffer.
sebastian dangerfield February 12, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Teach1 Really? Is it that hard to figure that she meant 1.875 a minute? Wow--that is super hard!
Christine E. February 13, 2012 at 12:15 AM
There are no meters in Ridgefield, it's all timed parking with a Parking Officer who chalks tires the old fashioned way, and it's been that way for over 20 years. If you can't pay attention to the time, it's your fault. You aren't being penalized for parking, you're being penalized for parking too long. Parking is limited. Downtown Ridgefield is busy. Finding a parking spot, even on a weekday at lunch time (especially in the CVS parking lot) is hard to do. In my entire life, I have never felt inconvenienced by the process. I think this is just a perfect example of people who do not feel they should be inconvenienced but, if the rules were changed and there was no parking available when they wanted to shop because of people who parked there all day, they'd be crying the blues. Just my opinion. I'm entitled to that, you know.
ParkHereNow February 13, 2012 at 01:14 AM
The parking procedure in Ridgefield is economically "frustrating", although I'd like to use a different word. In rough numbers, we are paying the ticket agent $30,000 and bringing in $35,000 in fines. But once you add in the other overhead, like administrative cost to collect on the tickets, by my calculations, the costs are greater than the revenue. It means every time the parking agent writes a ticket, we lose money. And losing money means the taxpayers must make up the difference. Imagine that, someone parks illegally and the rest of us must pay money. You just couldn't make this stuff up.
sebastian dangerfield February 13, 2012 at 02:30 AM
not sure what your point is. I guess you feel like there are rules--and if there are rules they are correct. I personally dont see any ulterior motive other than most likely shopping in town. ( i differentiate between darien --because as stated- people might park and hop on a train.) What do you think these RULEBREAKERS are doing? Getting their hair done? So what?- -they are supporting the merchants. Which, is the entire purpose for parking rules.... There should be no time limit. All you're accomplishing is hiring a cop --and charging people needlessly. Christine, if ridgefield made it a 5 minute limit--Im sure you'd be ok. But I wouldnt. Because im not of the belief that all rules are smart. parking should be free and without a time limit in ridgefield. (and yes I know there is no charge--) The traffic lights should not incorporate walkers---so as to help eliminate the terrible traffic in town. Traffic in New York city that accomodates 20 times the number of pedestrians and cars works far better. But-perhaps christine you think if it is the way it is set up--we should just follow the rules and accept. I think things can change...and with change comes improvement. And , um, im entitled to my opinion!
Christine E. February 13, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Luca, You spend the majority of your time patching and intentionally trying to create arguments and friction. Not sure why. My point was not about the limits or the rules... it's about the accountability. Getting upset because you got a ticket for being 8 minutes late is no different than being upset at your boss because you were docked pay for showing up late. It isn't your bosses fault you made that choice, is it? You might not agree with the rules the way they are...and you are more than welcome, and have all the the right in the world to propose a change. However, disagreeing with a rule (or law) doesn't give you the right to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. Right here, right now, the rule exists. Agree with it or not, it's your responsibility to follow it - until it changes. I don't agree with a lot of rules...doesn't mean I disregard them.
sebastian dangerfield February 13, 2012 at 06:28 AM
haha Ok -thanks christine -- strange you bristle when someone disagree with you, or says you are snotty. But then, you have no qualms about telling me what I do and what I accomplish. Ok-so if I read your postings, you too take issue with people's postings. So? What is your rule there? Debating/disagreeing is allowed? Or not? You can make that rule for yourself Christine, but then I will kindly ask you to follow it. No one, including the author of the piece, suggested she was not going to pay the fine. What people/ I said is that I think it accomplishes very little to have a rule like that. So what we are doing here, christine, is debating whether or not its a pragmatic and necessary law. Not to suggest that we should break the law. Like I say, if the rule were 5 minutes, then you no doubt would obey it and not critique it--just accept because you are very accepting. (oh wait, you dont actually j accept other peoples opinions.) But, some rules/ laws are open for criticism....and I think me , a few others on this board, and the author all agree the rules as they exist, are not in our opinions good ones. And yes, I still am entitled to it..and you are enttled to maintain your attitude that we need to accept all laws.
Tom Falconieri February 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM
100% correct the fearless leaders of this town don't know how to use it or do they know how to read it. I got a ticket behind town HALL for parking on the PARK LINES. No one ever told the town that a 450 DULIE does not fit unless you park it exactly square in the lines as drawn. So i got a ticket. I protested and was told TO BAD PAY IT. I now never shop in ridgefield. I go to danbury or on line. Danbury welcomes me and their are plenty of parking available. Bottom line is the town over built the town and waved parking zoning regulations. So they hired meter maids to slap tickets on the peons US. Simple the leaders of this town are penny wise pound foolish and they dont even know it. That is why i am moving out of Ridgefield and this state. EVERYWHERE YOU LEAK THEY HOLD A BUCKET SHOP DANBURY IT IS CHEAPER AND NO TICKETS
Christine E. February 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Luca, Maybe im sick of the "not my fault" attitude in this area? As for taking issue with postings,why us my disagreement an 'issue while yours is an opinion? Seems like the same thing, to me. As someone who disagrees with everyone, always causes a stir,and likely created several fake patch accounts to start arguments, your opinion of me or my position really holds no value.
Cathryn J. Prince February 13, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Christine E. You asked "What happened to accountability?" Well, if you read the piece you'll see that as soon as I got home I tried to pay on line, and when I couldn't I mailed in my fine. No where in the piece do I not take responsibility for my actions. Simply I wondered if there could be a grace period, and if any towns had them. Pretty benign stuff.
Christine E. February 13, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Cathryn, Respectfully, perhaps that's how you intended your piece to feel, but when I read the last paragraph: "I understand the need to enforce parking. I understand the concept of pay for space. But 8 minutes? Isn’t there something called a grace period? Would 10 – 15 minutes be too much? Do any towns in Fairfield County give a grace period? No. No grace." i was not given the impression that you felt your ticket was justified. Can't expect all readers to interpret things the same. Just felt more whiny, to me.
Allie_Whitman February 13, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I think people need to lighten up. This isn't meant to be a hard hitting investigative report by Woodward and Bernstein. It's a light hearted article expressing a peeve we've all experienced. A bit much to dissect every word. Catherine, I enjoyed your piece. Been to that exact parking lot. Heard about the aggressive parking tactics. The meter machine was broken. Took a video on my flip cam in case I was ticketed. LOL! My spouse thought I was paranoid. You've vindicated me! Thanks!
Christine E. February 13, 2012 at 04:58 PM
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