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You Can Be Ticketed for Feeding a Parking Meter After the Time Limit: How Many People Really Know?

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During the Writers Strike, I was a Picket Team Captain at CBS Television City in Hollywood located at Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. Depending upon parking regulations and street sweeping days, it was necessary to park at meters during a portion of our picketing activity. So, on certain days I fed quarters into a meter until it was safe to move into a free parking zone nearby. Never had a problem. And neither did anyone else.

Then, just at the end of the strike, a meter maid ticketed one of my colleagues, even with time left on the meter. We all protested, but she insisted that, since the sign said one hour parking, our friend was in violation and she proceeded to hand her a ticket. I took down her name and informed this bureaucratic horror that the "one hour" or "two hour" signs indicated how long the meter might last and was designed to discourage long term parking, especially for people who didn't want to have to keep running back to put in their coins.

Naturally, it fell on deaf ears and I let it go, as it wasn't a priority in my life. However, it occasionally nagged at me, and when I recently found the time to do so I called the Los Angeles parking authority and was positively shocked to find out that the parking miscreant was correct.

How could this be, I asked a very polite and sympathetic parking coordinator? After all, I've been refeeding meters for years and never gotten a ticket. Plus, if I park in a free one or two hour zone in a residential area and I need to stay longer, I always make sure to move my car to the other side of the street to avoid a fine. Apparently, according to the woman, I'd been lucky in all cases. How about you?

She said that meter time limit zones were just that. If it's a one-hour meter, you cannot stay beyond that time limit, and if someone catches you in the act you are subject to a fine. She said that sometimes they chalk a car (which I thought only happened in free parking areas on residential streets), and sometimes they actually look at the mileage if they are able to do so. In any event, they are within their rights to ticket you.

What if I simply moved my car to the next meter? She said the one-hour limit was for the entire street. Even if I moved it to the other side of the road, which I often did when I was coming to the end of a two hour residential parking limit? This, too, was illegal for a twenty-four hour period. Even if it were a huge avenue, like, let's say, Beverly Boulevard, I couldn't park at a meter across the street? She said that in all such instances it was necessary to move to an entirely different block.

However, she also said it is unusual for this to happen, which is probably why I never got a ticket. She said that the woman in question might have been new and eager to follow the regulations she'd recently been taught. She said most parking officials were just concerned about expired meters, overstaying time in a limited parking area or if you parked in a red zone.

Even more reason I insisted that this news be better disseminated. I related an experience in San Francisco, where in the downtown area the signs clearly stated that it was not permissible to feed a meter after the maximum time permitted. Why don't the Los Angeles signs similarly say so to warn people who legitimately might be in the dark about the law based on their actual life experiences, backed up by the parking coordinator's candid admission that many parking officers don't ticket a car if the clock on the meter is still ticking?

I pride myself for being up on most major things. I read the newspaper every day and, e.g., had a Blue Tooth device at the ready on July 1, 2008 when the hands-free cell phone law went into effect in California. If I was ignorant of the parking meter law, I can only imagine that many others were as well, witness my writer colleague at CBS Television City. I mean, can some of you remember a commercial a few years ago where a parking lady was coming down the street and gave a mock reproachful stare at someone who got just ahead of her and, as a friendly gesture, put some coins into a stranger's vehicle? If it was patently illegal and widely known, would that commercial have aired as such or, more realistically, wouldn't the parking lady have giggled ominously, pushed the Good Samaritan out of the way and written up the poor sucker's car just as well?

I firmly believe that in instances such as this the city should make it crystal clear what the rules are, and, at the least, follow San Francisco's example by spelling it out so that fellow citizens know beforehand they might be breaking the law.

It's also unclear when meters are free, as per signs that say they are not enforced on Sundays, with no wording at all about public holidays. Yet it is well known, and I've checked this out with the parking authorities, that on such days, e.g. Christmas, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, there will be no ticketing. What about the "lesser" government holidays such as the King Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day and Veterans Day when government offices are closed but most stores and many offices remain open? Shouldn't all government holidays take on the characteristics of a Sunday? But with most of the signs, one can't be certain.

Someone should rewrite those parking signs to avoid confusion. Hey, I'm a writer. I'm available.