Schenectady's inscrutable parking tickets
Recently I became the recipient of a Schenectady parking ticket.
Considering people have not paid some $2.3 million in parking tickets, I was quite interested in my firsthand look at the issue. And as soon as I looked at the ticket, I thought: No wonder people don’t pay!
The ticket was surprisingly different from the clear-cut, easy-to-read tickets I used to collect in Albany. It was so confusing that I couldn’t even immediately see what my fine was.
My ticket ought to have said: $40 if paid within 20 days. Ticket doubles after that date.
Instead it said:
If you read the fine print under each number, it says the first number is the “violation” and the second is the “fine.”
But there was no dollar sign to emphasize this. The fine was actually placed as if it was of lesser importance to the random violation number. (By the way, 24 is “other,” according to a large violation chart that takes up most of the space on the ticket. Other? Very helpful.)
Then, in even smaller print, was an lengthy paragraph that seemed to be a detailed description of how to find the Traffic Division office and pay the ticket.
Buried near the end was the information that the fine would double after 20 days.
This is the sort of information that ought to be prominently displayed, if you want people to pay on time.
When I lived in Albany, I had to park each evening on streets that had alternate-side parking rules. I believe I earned about a dozen tickets a year when I failed to move my car from one side to the other at precisely 8 a.m.
(Move early, you get a ticket. Move at 8:01 a.m., you get a ticket. The only solution was to simply sit in your car until precisely 8 a.m. and then drive across the street with everyone else, jockeying for position.)
So I’m quite familiar with Albany’s parking tickets. They prominently displayed the amount owed, stated in bold letters where to pay and by what date, and then showed in large numbers what my fine would be if I failed to pay on time.
Those who didn’t pay for even one ticket got booted, promptly, for the first offense. That means a so-called boot is attached to a wheel of the vehicle so it can’t be moved.
I found that out when I was booted once, for one overdue ticket. I learned my lesson: I always pay my parking tickets on time, now. I’ll pay this one, too, for parking too close to a stop sign.
But if I didn’t, I doubt I’d hear another squawk about it. In Schenectady, only those who have racked up dozens of tickets get booted. (Actually, they get towed, not booted, but it amounts to the same thing: you can’t use your car til you pay.)
I wonder how many first offenders in Schenectady go on to ignore more tickets, when there are no consequences to the first one?
Reach Gazette reporter Kathleen Moore by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.