D.C.’s Zombie Parking Meters

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

They die and come back to life:

Grievance calls about the D.C.’s aging meter stock hit a record 116,354 in 2008, but that figure bears little relationship to the number of actual broken meters, D.C. Department of Transportation officials recently told a D.C. Council committee. Crews dispatched to repair a broken meter, the agency says, found the device operating as intended 67 percent of the time.

How is this possible? One explanation, according to DDOT, is that 74 percent of D.C.’s 15,453 meters are designed to self-correct, but are also “at the end of their useful life.” So a person who parks at a meter displaying a “fail” message may return an hour later to find a working meter flashing zero time and a ticket on the windshield — a process that may repeat several times a day.

D.C. officials say modernizing the meters has been slowed by budget shortfalls. Which I think means, “We can’t afford to stop ripping people off.”

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12 Responses to “D.C.’s Zombie Parking Meters”

  1. #1 |  Kit Smith | 

    My favorite parking meter story was from my sister, who attended a Division I A school in the Midwest. She parked her car on campus at a meter post that had no head on it to turn in a paper to her professor; 20 minutes later she comes back to her car to find that there is now a meter on the post and she’s been ticketed for failing to pay.

    The same situation happened to my brother years later, but he was wise enough to grab a nearby newspaper, hold it next to the car and take a photo with all of the evidence needed to contest the ticket and win.

  2. #2 |  Stephen | 

    “That’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

    I’m sure the city is happy with the extra cash.

  3. #3 |  Spleen | 

    She parked her car on campus at a meter post that had no head on it to turn in a paper to her professor; 20 minutes later she comes back to her car to find that there is now a meter on the post and she’s been ticketed for failing to pay.

    Wow, it’s like a reverse Cool Hand Luke.

    Shakin’ the leaf, boss!

  4. #4 |  Aresen | 

    With any luck, they’ll tag all the lobbyists going to Washington to get a piece of the stimulus.

  5. #5 |  Nando | 

    I always take a picture of the “Fail” message with my cell phone in case it fixes itself.

  6. #6 |  Miggs | 

    Personally, I prefer the slow zombie parking meters over the fast ones.

  7. #7 |  seeker6079 | 

    The one that sticks in my mind was from NYC about ten years ago. A Times reporter sitting in a cafe saw a man park his car at a spot where the meter had been completely removed; it was thus free legal parking. Soon afterwards a City work crew arrived to put the replacement meter in, along with a meter maid (male, whatever they call them). The maid stood, waited patiently while the crew poured the new concrete, installed the meter, and when they left, promptly wrote a ticket.

  8. #8 |  v0max | 

    I don’t know about DC specifically, but in many other municipalities the laws on the books make it a violation to park at a failed meter. Obviously no one obeys this, myself included.

    My favorite parking story was when I was in college: I parked on campus and put money in the meter, I synced my watch with the time remaining. I returned with 3 minutes still on the meter, a ticket on my windshield, and the meter maid getting back into her car. I pulled the ticket off, started to approach her, and she immediately slammed her door and floored it.

  9. #9 |  ECOA | 

    For those persons in college, I would suggest finding out how the parking enforcement rules interact with the rest of the university functions. Where I went to school, the tickets were tied only to the license plate number, not the driver. So… I drove a different car after my first car was totaled, and paid not one ticket. bear in mind, of course, that I was actually guilty of the parking violations, but also bear in mind that there is nowhere to park without paying a truly ridiculous fee for a parking permit. The school actually worked a deal with a neighboring parking lot, which used to be free, to sell permits for it, so that the students willing to make the 10 minute walk to campus in exchange for free parking now have to pay for a parking permit. I was quite offended, so even though I normally pay all of my tickets in an extremely timely manner, I chose not to in this case. Take it for what you will.

  10. #10 |  nic | 

    At least they have meters in DC. In NYC they took out all the meters and replaced them these “muni meter” thingys in which each time you want to park you have to purchase a ticket from a little kiosk (usually located a block or two away because Murphy’s law says you will never get a spot near one of these stupid things – just hope the meter maid doesn’t come buy while you are in the process of purchasing your ticket)…and did I mention that the rate is like 200% more than what was being charged for the old meters.

  11. #11 |  MacK | 

    #8 v0max

    “I don’t know about DC specifically, but in many other municipalities the laws on the books make it a violation to park at a failed meter. Obviously no one obeys this, myself included.”

    Well you would be ticketed here just the same.
    Remember these things work half the time, so when you put your money in, and walk off, all is good in the world. When you come back, you have a ticket, because you parked at a failed meter.

  12. #12 |  v0max | 

    @MacK:

    I was referring to the scenario in the article where someone parks at a failed meter, only to find that it later started working. Even if it remained failed, the parking authority usually has the right to ticket you.

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