Will parking meter increases chase restaurant customers away from downtown Portland?
Update: 3.17.09 The plan has officially been scrapped, in favor of one that raises prices .25 an hour, and extends meters to Sunday.
The Portland City Council is going to be voting on raising parking meter rates by .25 an hour, and extending the hours of operation from the current 7 pm to 9 pm; this under the guise of having more money to fix streets. They claim it will create 76 more jobs in the process.
I have a couple of thoughts on this. First of all, when the Portland parking meters were extended to 7 pm, I started going to restaurants later. It is less about me being cheap, and more about me hating the hassle of standing in line behind someone who doesn’t know how to use the meter, or walking half a block in the rain, or waiting for what seems like hours for the machine to process a credit card. It also means the ability to park in loading zones after seven will go away – the end result will mean less downtown parking.
When the hours were extended last time, restaurant friends told me that the crowd started to come in later. Do restaurants really need people to have another reason not to come downtown. Could this actually make downtown restaurants less inviting, and end up costing more jobs than it creates? I decided to run a poll, and the results were skewed sharply against the plan. The comment section below is full of folks with strong opinions.
1-Yes, people will go to restaurants downtown later…or not at all.
2-In this economy, you give anyone another reason not to spend money or make it more difficult for them, they’re taking it. Making this another seemingly short sighted move by the geniuses who run our city.
3-Is there anything worse than standing behind some dork who can’t figure out the high-tech miracle that apparently, to them, is the parking meter? You can almost see the gears creaking, ever so slowly, in their east county minds: “Well, let’s see, I got a quarter, and a nickel, and another nickel. Does this thing take pennies? Hey honey, do you have any change on you? Sure, I’ll wait for ya, sweetie. Well, lookee here, there’s a piece of paper comin’ outta that thing!!”
Owning a downtown restaurant, I’m constantly frustrated talking to people about parking. Anyone who has lived or spent time in a city like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco knows how lucky we are in Portland to have the parking we do. Three blocks from Kenny & Zuke’s is a Smart Park that’s the same price as the street parking. But that’s too far for people. One block away is a lot that after about 3pm always has spots open and after 4pm is only a few bucks for the rest of the night. But $4 is too expensive for parking. I have people who say they’ve driven around looking for a spot and decided not to come in because they couldn’t find one on the same block. Portland has tiny blocks and even on Sundays when parking is free and it’s more difficult to find spots, I can always find one within two blocks quickly. I have a much worse time finding parking near Pastaworks on Hawthorne. And I’ve had countless potential customers or former customers of Ken’s Place tell me either 1) they haven’t tried coming into the restaurant because of the parking downtown, or 2) they haven’t tried coming into the restaurant because they don’t go across the river. (I love near 68th and Foster and it takes me 12 minutes to get to work by car. 12 f’n minutes! Going across the Willamette is not like Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware.) Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I think one of the frustrating things is that technically you can’t plug your meter. So if you want to go see a show or go out to eat a relaxing meal where you might have to hang out at the bar and drink for a half hour before being seated, your meter might run out since most are 90 minute. That means that 2/3rds of the way into a movie or halfway through a show at the Armory or right about the time you’re deciding if you want to order dessert, you have to go move your car.
It’s a bad idea, only partially because it will actually be a burden on people, but more because it will further the belief in people that downtown itself is a burden.
Kim Price says
Yes – this will be just one more reason to make people not go downtown to spend money.
I share all of your reasons for avoiding parking meters, but find an even bigger problem is being in line behind others using credit cards too. However, my biggest reason to avoid meters is that they run out.
When I go to an event at night, like the symphony I really try to avoid parking garages. Either, you are trapped in there with all the other people leaving the same event at the same time or spending time alone in a parking garage at night, which makes me uncomfortable. But it is the former that is by far the biggest problem and I’ve waited over 30 minutes, on multiple occasions, for “my turn” to leave the parking garage.
When I go to an event, I am normally parking while the meter is still operating. For example, I typically will go to dinner before 6, arriving sometime after 5:30 PM. This is not based on meter timing, but my and my husband’s work schedules, and some trouble was created with me having to find 90 minute meters after the last increase in operation hours. Currently, I can find a 90 minute meter that will take me through the meter operation hours. I generally will not be done at the restaurant by then, but as long as I have paid up through 7, I am OK.
Where will I find a meter that goes longer than 3 hours? OK, I do know where, but they are nowhere near the restaurants and venues I frequent. I think this pretty much pushes me over the edge as far as it will now be just too much trouble to go downtown.
Mitch Conner says
25 cents is really going to change your habits? I swear people in Portland whine about any taxes. We have no sales tax our streets are in disrepair and our school are completely underfunded. But by all means, we should never bear any cost for the roads. It’s completely irrational. There are plenty of public transportation choices if people don’t want to drive and park. I’d rather they use them anyway if they plan on drinking.
Food Dude says
But people aren’t going to use public transportation, especially when that is being cut back at the same time. Bus routes are being cut, train frequencies are being reduced.
Mitch Conners says
I don’t buy this argument at all. Most lines are still running as scheduled or with slightly fewer runs.
Food Dude says
Then you aren’t paying attention. Trimet has ten lines slated for elimination. Saturday service to be eliminated for two more, etc. Night and early morning MAX trains would have the service interval reduced from every 15 minutes to every 30. Read the news if you are going to comment.
The issue here isn’t a willingness to pay taxes to fix the roads, it’s convenience. If you are wealthy enough to afford a car and insurance and gas, then why not kick in an extra $100 per year vehicle registration fee for Multnomah County to fix the local roads where you live, work and drive. I would think that would more than cover an extra 25cents/hour and extended parking hours. I’d be happy to do that, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna scrape around for 18 quarters in my pocket to plug a meter for 3 hours. Which raises the really relevant question – who the hell invested in these ridiculous parking meter dispensers that do not accept dollar bills? Who walks around with a roll of quarters in their pocket/wallet? And how many of us have shoved the credit card into those machines only to have them stick/fail to work and then what? Too much inconvenience will lead to alternative dining options and restaurants and retailers will definitely suffer more as part of this short-sighted decision. Let’s find a solution that works for everyone without damaging a fragile economic business climate downtown.
The Wizard Tim says
“who the hell invested in these ridiculous parking meter dispensers that do not accept dollar bills?”
It’s what I’ve always thought, here is this great big machine that accepts Credit Cards and change, but NOT dollar bills, the easiest form of currency?
Hopefully man-purses will be in style soon, that way I’ll have a place to keep my change other than my pockets.
It’s not about the additional $.25. That’s perhaps an irritation, but not that huge a deal IMHO. The additional hours, however, ARE a big deal. They come right in the middle of the time that I’m likely going to be eating out and are a huge inconvenience w.r.t. parking. That will most definitely be a factor in deciding whether to eat downtown or not. I’m already a 20-25 minute drive away — that’s right on the edge in terms of a quick spontaneous “let’s eat out” decision as it is. This is one more reason to either stay home or go out locally.
Portland… the city that works. Yeah… riiiiiiight. What a brain dead idea.
Mitch Conners says
What makes you think you’re entitled to park downtown for free? I think the fact that Portland allows this at any time is pretty nice. If you’re using the roads to drive on or park, you should pay for the wear and tear on the road. Portland roads are in terrible condition. They need to be fixed. I’m sure the people that live in our counties would love for Multnomah County tax payers to foot the bill. Sorry no. The people from the outlying area should help pay for maintaining the roads if they want to use them. .
Where do you get the idea that I think we should be parking for free? Don’t feel that way at all. I’m simply concerned that the additional hours make it much more difficult to go out to eat and enjoy evening activities… thus making an evening in downtown Portland that much more difficult and painful. The last thing we need in this economy. Overall, the recommended increase is not that big a deal at least from my perspective… the hours are.
No sales tax, but one of the highest state income tax rates – 9% plus a 1.25% Multnomah County income tax if you live here. Setting the deadline to 9pm will add more jobs? Yes, probably meter enforcement employees. Just what we need to improve the economy.
I have no problem with them raising the price on the meters, but they should not extend it beyond seven. That will for sure be a pain in the butt when trying to go to dinner at a reasonable hour, especially when you need to leave meal midway through to feed the meter.
Kim Price says
But, technically “feeding the meter” is illegal and they can still ticket you. The code in Portland requires that move your car to another block.
Food Dude says
I actually got busted for that, when I didn’t notice a meter reader down the block.
Sarah Figliozzi says
Remember that meters will decrease the number of residents parking curbside from 7pm through the remainder of the night. Thus this will increase your chance of finding a parking space when dining out.
Food Dude says
I don’t get that. Where else will residents park? Also, it takes the loading zones out of circulation.
Sarah Figliozzi says
Loading zones are not impacted by metered parking. They have their own signage indicating hours of use.
Food Dude says
Actually, they are impacted, because the city always changes loading zone signs to match the meters
FD is absolutely right, Sarah Figliozzi.
When they extended pay hours from 6 to 7 pm, the loading zone hours coincidentally changed too. So this time, expect the same.
Sarah Figliozzi says
Sorry, my point simply was that as the adjacent property owner you can request the city to amend the truck loading zones to meet the delivery needs of the businesses around you.
Food Dude says
One thing I forgot to mention, is this change will also affect the area around the Rose Quarter, coliseum, and Lloyd areas, as the meters have been extended over there.
I LOVE this rant, and totally agree with him, as I agree with you, Extra MSG (never thought I’d say that;-). And Nancy, yeah. Having your meter run out mid-movie or dinner really is the biggest hassle, as far as I can see it. Me, I live in Berkeley, so the parking in Portland always looks pretty great from my perspective.
Meters are also coming to the CEID (Central Eastside Industrial District), actually from the River to about 9th, from I-84 to around OMSI to pay for the new Eastside Streetcar.
I don’t think most people have an issue with the 25 cents, it’s the 9PM end time. The Portland Business Alliance is allegedly supportive. I wonder how many RESTAURANTS are aware of this. This WILL take away from their business. Call your commissioner and the mayor NOW!!!!! Stop the madness!!!
503-823-4120 Mayor’s Office
Commissioners, 823-3008, 3589, 4682, and 4151
btw, I am currently working with the mayor’s office to form an independent Portland restaurant association and have a Portland restaurant week in April, hopefully. I am collecting contact information and hope to send out an email to many soon. I’m also looking for a board of directors for the organization. Anyone interested, please contact me at nick -ATSIGN- kennyandzukes -PERIOD- com. I am scheduled to get a small group of restaurateurs together with the mayor’s office next week to start brainstorming about the restaurant week idea and possibly discuss other issues, such as this.
As a female who often drives solo to dinner downtown to meet
friends, I will not park in a parking garage at night. I will pay valet parking
or i want to park on the street within 3-4 blocks of the restaurant or shopping area.
I understand the City needing to make more revenue. Aren’t we all wishing for
that miracle? Extending the meter time past 7pm is a nuisance for drivers who will
have to leave a restaurant or shopping to move the car (since we can’t plug meters), and a boon for
the City (parking tickets!).
I am an employee at Higgins’ restaurant downtown. Already I have to park many blocks away to
find a 5 hour meter or parking garage that will allow me to park long enough to get to work on time and not have to
move my car during the ingress of our dinner service! The idea of longer parking hours is extremely discouraging… disappointing even! And as others have already mentioned, our restaurant frequently receives comments about how difficult it was to find parking.
I do agree with Nancy — although I’d rather not pay any more to park (something that feels like it should be free having grown up in the suburbs) I’d prefer to pay a little more per hour than to struggle with later enforcement times.
Not the smartest move for Portland, if I do say so.
Good Food For Me says
I’m agreeing with all of you. We’ve actually paid our server $5 bucks to plug our meter and left our keys just so we would not be interrupted to plug a meter during a biz meeting and/or a movie – I’d rather pay but they need to extend the meter time frames. It’s a drag – however; downtown Seattle costs about $22 a day in paid parking and at least a dollar fifty an hour on the street in most cases – their streets – still suck!
Some of you kids need to chill out. Joe-Bob and Sally are part of the clientele that keep our restaurants in business. And eastsiders? I’m not one, but I felt the slur nonetheless. Is it the stress caused by our economy, or is Portland losing its live-and-let-live culture? Now that I’ve got that off my chest—-I really empathiize with restaurant staffers who will get squeezed by the projected parking changes. As for patrons like me, I’ll still do what it takes to frequent the restaurants I like. It’s life in the big city, folks. I predict that more restaurants will be offering valet service in the future.
Food Dude says
“I predict that more restaurants will be offering valet service in the future.”
And higher prices to cover the cost.
When I first moved to Portland, an editor of mine at WW smiled when I fed my parking meter.
“You think they actually ticket,” she said, and I figured, well, yeah. While I am fairly good about not going over time, I have in four years probably done so a dozen times, and have only gotten one ticket, leading me to think, the editor might have had a point. So, can anyone tell me: how assiduous are the meter readers?
Since they switched to bikes, the meter readers come about every 15-30 minutes outside of my company’s main office in the Pearl.
I have several employees who probably have funded the big pipe on their parking tickets alone. One of the nice ones I got was in the hotel parking when I was delivering some soda. I had parked over the yellow line that spaces the parking spots and gotten a $60 or so ticket. I’ve gotten tickets when I missed my time by less than 5 minutes. I’ve also gotten them when my time ran out at 6:45pm. I’ve gotten a couple tickets for plugging meters. I think one of my floor managers has gotten over two dozen parking tickets since we’ve opened. I’ve probably gotten a dozen and I park in the lot more than on the street.
btw, I looked into providing valet parking. There aren’t that many lots/spots available for it and the companies that do it aren’t that eager to take on new clients. I don’t see many new lots coming online and restaurant profits are tight. I don’t see much more valet parking in anyone’s future. Just more frustration on the part of consumers and the restaurants that will be missing them.
You are complaining cause you broke the law and got caught?
Big Pipe is paid for by sewer charges, not parking meters.
Well I have been in the area only for a year and have paid more than 8 times, believe me the meter readers are assiduous
It feels like I’m seeing an increase in the enforcement of parking here.
Last week I saw a line of cars at the Rose Quarter parking in a nearby industrial area. The volunteers parked around 5pm, and it was a “no parking” until 6. The entire line of cars (maybe about 12 cars?) received $75 tickets.
in December I was parked over on SW 15th and Jefferson and I received a ticket for expired registration (1 month expired). I wasn’t even able to get them to reduce my fine. I’m a bit sour about that whole thing.
I was recently in London and was amazed to find that lots of the inner city meters are ones you can ring up, pay over the phone and even more brilliantly, if you’re having a late lunch (dinner, meeting with your lawyer….), you can top up over the phone too….. I was lucky enough to be lunching at Wild Honey and things went well beyond the anticipated 2 hours we’d initially bought. The system there is less about ‘moving right along’ and more about ‘if I’ve got the space I’ll damn well keep it’, and it seems to really work.
In France there’s a parking meter moratorium between 1:00 and 3:00 pm, because the thinking is that NO ONE should have to interrupt their lunch with silly things like meters. Now there’s a country that’s got it’s priorities straight (at least that one).
Kim Price says
A couple of years back my husband also got a ticket for tags that were a month expired and the ticket was specifically for failure to register…except he had registered and the tags were stolen. Obviously we had proof he had registered on time, but they wouldn’t drop the ticket. It would have been a little different if he was ticketed for failure to display the tags, but he wasn’t. I went from a Portland worshiper to being seriously pissed at the parking people and have told at least 100 people about it. But, they got their little chunk of change and I am sure they think they won.
I’m sorry to hear what happened to you and your husband! I did need to re-register, so while
I was a bit upset with the ticket it was more justified. It sounds like you had a very unfair experience and
that is not good at all.
It sounded like you were targeting me when you said that people who use the roads should have to pay for them and not
whine about it. What I meant in my post about the suburbs is this: When I go to a restaurant I give my money, and in return I receive a tangible item. I can feel it, smell it, look at it, take it home, etc… the perceived value is high.
Sure road improvement is necessary and those who use the roads should pay for them…I never indicated otherwise. What I meant is that to pay for parking FEELS bad. The perceived worth is very low. In addition, we do pay taxes for all sorts of road improvements. It’s kind of like the MAX train…to pay for it feels bad enough…and then when they treat you like a criminal when their own machines won’t print tickets, or, only accept change, its a very unpleasant experience. I think it would be more beneficial to use any profits from increased parking fees to hire a human resource manager. :) Just because it’s government doesn’t mean its a good policy to treat people like teenagers at Rite Aid.
Might I suggest another option for downtown transportation? Ride a bike. I work downtown every weekday, and that’s what I do every day I possibly can. Saves money on gas, parking, and I don’t have to have a gym membership.
But I agree with many of the posters on this site that the fact that almost all the metered spots in the downtown core are only 90 minutes…doesn’t make for a very relaxing dinner or cultural event if you’re worrying about whether someone is out there putting a ticket on your car. I’ve been parking in the SmartPark on occasion for years, and never had a scary experience, even at night. Parking garages may not be the women-death-traps our mothers might have led us to believe…
Kim Price says
My Grandmother was actually attacked in a SmartPark and I witnessed a attempted attack on another woman (my showing up and taking notice scared the guy off). I personally am not a particularly frightened woman, nor is my Mother or Grandmothers. However, I do have a lot of family in law enforcement and am aware of some of the crimes that do occur and have decided that being alone in a parking garage late at night alone is not a risk I want to take. Just because you have not experienced something personally, does not mean it does not happen.
That all said though, SmartParks are my first choice for parking because they are better lit and more exposed than many other garages.
Honestly though, the idea that the city would make it virtually impossible to park on the street for an evening event is wrong in so many ways on so many levels and I believe really not to anyone’s benefit.
I, too, know a woman who was severely attacked in a parking lot downtown. I will not park in one alone at night, and will barely do it with my husband. I don’t mind walking a bit with on-street parking, but when it gets about 5 blocks or more away at night and I’m alone I often change my mind and opt for someplace on the east side.
Why is it we go to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and walk blocks and blocks but won’t walk three blocks in Portland? I don’t have a problem with the increase, if they can program the damn one hour meters to go longer. After 7 p.m. you should be able to buy the rest of the time and since they are “smart meters” they can program that. As far as 90-minute ones, well you shouldn’t be eating before 7:30 anyway. I can almost always find a parking place on the west side of downtown. And there is transit downtown, free transit at that. I park often downtown, haven’t had a ticket in years and years. But I have been bullied by an extremely rude meter reader, that bald surly guy, because I was chatting with a friend and didn’t have my sticker ON the window yet, I showed it to him and he said he could cite me. He went on and on. But I like being able to use plastic, btw, not quarters. However, I don’t like my card being taken hostage – always in the pouring rain. What happened to the buy a meter idea – you buy a few hours time, put the mini-meter on your dash, turn it on when you get out of the car to show you are paying to park.
You shouldn’t be eating before 7:30 anyway? I’m guessing you don’t have kids. I often try to sneak in an early dinner with friends before getting home to the family before bedtime, or *gasp!* eat out with my kids. Don’t worry – I do that early, so you don’t have to see the tiny people when you dine after 7:30.
But seriously – the thing that is different about Portland is that downtown is a bit of a ghost town at night. I don’t mind walking a mile for dinner in NYC at 11 pm because there are a ton of people on the street. Walking to dinner at Clyde Common at 8 pm there can be very few people around, and the neighborhood does not feel that safe. And this is coming from someone who went to school, lived and worked downtown for much of her life. I’m no suburbanite. If there were more neighborhood beat patrols by police, or more people out on the street, I’m sure people would feel better about walking farther at night.
I do think that there should be something, if they are going to go forward with the extended hours, where if you park after 6:30 pm or some other time the parking spot won’t expire. So you can pay for parking up to the end time of 9 pm, and not have to move your car.
One Swell Foop says
The kids in restaurants thing non-withstanding, are you F’ing kidding me? You don’t feel safe walking around the Pearl, or two block off of it, at 8PM? You say you’ve lived and worked downtown much of your life, but this is a new level of sheltered. This city is the safest I’ve ever lived in. The fact that I don’t have to worry about having a gun pointed at my face or being knifed on a nightly basis as I walk around NW Portland is like a breathe of fresh air every time I do it. It never gets old. Try comparing the zip code based crime statistics of Portland to those of cities of similar size, and think of the quivers of fear poking your head out the door anywhere else in the country might induce.
I’m aware this is a bit harsh, but you really can’t be serious….really
Stinky Cheese says
Clyde Common’s not in the Pearl.
Portland might have less crime than most cities of its size, but it’s not crime-free. I’m glad to live in a relatively safe place, but I don’t think a woman wanting to avoid walking alone after dark downtown has to be F-ing kidding.
Yes, a bit harsh. Really.
No problem about the increase in fees. Are you folks really that bent out of shape about paying $3-5 when you’re out for a $50-100 night on the town?
If the hours increase then the length at meters needs to increase. The 1-hour and 90-minute zones need to change to 2-hours to allow diners to enjoy their dinner without worrying about being ticketed.
When they extended the hours for the meters to 7 PM, they didn’t change the meters to lengthen the maximum time allowed. I doubt that they would do it this time.
How about a flex-zone concept. One hour zones during the day (shopping hours) that change to two hour zones after 6PM.
We’re smart enough to ‘get it’.
Come on PDX. You gotta give a little to get a little.
Man, I’m posting a lot on this thread. My apologies. This, too, is an assumption. What about people going to see a movie? I rarely have those $50-$100 nights out. More often it’s $20-$40 nights out. And I think that downtown gets a lot more of that revenue. I don’t think the price per hour is the problem, it’s the hassle of the later hours without extending the amount of time you’re allowed to park in a spot. So far they haven’t talked about flex-hours or extending hours or anything else.
I think a 25 cent increase is not such a big deal. But extending hours of enforcement until 9 cant be a good idea. How much are the attached increases ( meter maids and the attached benefits – over time, etc? ) Lets face it, everyone is taxing stuff to dance around the real issue ( SALES TAX ) .
There will and should be a toll from all points exiting and entering the State ( I5 bridge, Oregon / California border ) Even at 50 cents( each way ) why not? The proposed beer tax was written horribly…how about starting at 5 cents?
I dont think the increase will diminsh downtown dining. But it will be a pain for folks going to a movie between 6-9 pm. Who is going to leave to feed the meter?
As for the valet idea, it is a good idea, but in reality an additional charge which the guest has to eat. Also in SW, valets ( like the ones in NW ) use existing parking spots. In SW, that would mean under the proposed plan, valets would have to “feed” the meter until 9. That’s not going to happen.
I think the city of Portland should re-think the corporate tax structure…look at the companies that have left the downtown area for Beaverton or Vancouver due to the cities short sightedness. I believe Portland is one of the toughest towns to do business in. ( Ask Columbia Sportswear, Northwest Pipe, Kuni Automotive etc. )
Its funny Portlanders want to both ways….we want to be known as a CITY, but we really are not as metropolitan as we think. As a New York transplant, Portland is more like White Plains…not even Brooklyn. BTW, if you didnt take the train into Manhatten…one drove. Depending on your route ( and location/destination ) you probably had to pay a couple of tolls in and out of Manhatten. For me – I paid a toll on the Hutchension River Parkway, and a toll on to the West Side Highway. If one was lucky you found parking, but in a rush most paid a fortune for Parking ( Kinney Parking – The Goodman’s wished they had the business Kinney parking had! )
Sales tax even at 3.5 – 4% to start would make a huge difference!
You made the point that when people are “out on the town” they will be spending a lot of money anyway and that they should put the increase in perspective. That may be true, but as a downtown employee this affects me differently. I’m trying to earn money and already I’m paying nearly an hours worth of work to park 10 (long) blocks away so I CAN work. If you calculate the cost to park for even just a few hours downtown everyday it adds up to a whole lot in a month — a significant percentage of income in fact!
That being said, my issue lines up with the majority here that the problem is the increase of enforcement hour. I saw your post about “flex zones” and understand you agree on that point also.
I agree with you 100% and apologize for neglecting to comment on downtown employees. I too have a job downtown. Weekends, during the day in the Pearl. I have few public transit options from where I live and my required attire and lack of showers/changing area at my place of employment make biking not an option.
So when I fork over an hours pay to park, I share your pain.
Hey, we have one thing to be thankful for. At least Whole Foods did away with their $10 minimum purchase for validation when parking down below! [Although I do wish they would bring back $5 evenings and weekends.]
Food Dude says
The thing that irks me about this increase, is it is just another tax in the guise of something else. I’m totally in favor of “pay as you go” fees, but this seems arbitrary. It’s going to add jobs? No, it won’t. It’s going to fix potholes? Where? If the repairs will just be made in the area of the parking meter I plugged, maybe, but we all no it won’t.
I have absolutely no problem with a reasonable increase in the gas tax – it’s an honest tax. If I drive, I pay a higher tax for the increased wear I put on the roads. This is just smarmy “let’s sneak this through and call is something else”.
Hey All: My day job includes presiding over the Multnomah County traffic courts from time to time (like now). Before I started doing the judge job, I was lawyer for a long time, and way before that I was a political science major. Many of you know this. Coupla things (speaking only for myself and not the Court):
On the policy question (raising rates, extending hours): one of the distinctive benefits of living in a democracy is that regular citizens actually have the opportunity to participate in policy making. Take advantage. If I read the OP from Mr. Dude correctly, the decision on parking changes has not been made. Though it is unlikely one voice can make a difference, a whole bunch (voters presumably) can. So, instead of idly bitching on a food blog (this is still a food blog, right?), organize, participate and influence the process. To those cynics among you, well, that’s your problem. But, do nothing and you can be sure your views will go unheeded. (Even Mr. MSG–a hard-bitten cynic last I heard–has seen the light and is working with the mayor’s office on an issue of importance to him and his business. That’s one way to get things done.)
On the matter of enforcement, there are lots of parking enforcement officers. Nearly all of them are like each of us: hard working, decent folks doing their jobs as best they can. There are a few creeps, as in any profession. The bald surly guy: yeah, I know who he is. I know to scrutinize the tickets he writes when there is a dispute. I’ve also heard that he’s gotten a lot better in recent years after lots of complaints about his conduct.
Now let me offer you a few free tips from the inside. They’re the same things I tell anybody if I’m asked.
1. If you see the parking enforcement officer while he’s looking over your vehicle, by all means try to have a polite discussion, but don’t expect the officer to change his/her mind because you were only illegal “for five minutes.” But if your points are valid or your story compelling, the officer may well not write the ticket or void it. And even if the officer is one of the unfriendlies, you will not help your situation by getting in the officer’s face or acting like a self-entitled jerk. Accept the arguably undeserved ticket firm in the knowledge that the parking enforcement officer does not have the final word. Judges do.
2. If aren’t pleased with the ticket, but you can’t see any reason to come to court in person, send in a written explanation with your guilty or no contest plea (and the stated fine). You have this option and judges read every single one of these “mail pleas.” Really. Most will reduce your parking fine substantially if you have something persuasive to say and can express yourself without expletives or snide comments. Politeness is a positive. Good grammar and spelling ability or fancy stationary (nice to know you are a brain surgeon, but still couldn’t read the loading zone sign) don’t matter to me. I am particularly impressed by citizens who own up to an error and, in the case of expired tags tickets for example, have remedied the situation or say they have learned something. On the rare occasions when a mail plea is particularly abusive toward the Courts or the officer, I have used my discretion to increase the fine or, if the abusive citizen doesn’t want to pay the increased fine, to require the person to come to court to explain their views face to face.
3. If you really don’t think you did anything wrong, by all means mail in your not guilty plea (you still have to post bail) and wait for your trial date. That’s another great thing about a democracy: whether it’s murder in the first degree or overtime parking, there is an independent judicial branch and you are entitled to your day in court. Once the date rolls around, you will first have the opportunity to chat with the officer before the trial to try to reach a resolution. You don’t have to talk to them (nor are they required to talk to you, but most of them will), but it is encouraged. If you can’t get it worked out, I will hear the evidence from both sides (note that most parking officers now take photos of the scene when they write the citation) and rule. To be candid, the officers usually prevail, but not always. As with mail pleas, even if you lose, but you had something to say (unfamiliar with area, did not see less than obvious signs, medical situation), there is a pretty strong likelihood the fine will be reduced or, in rare circumstances, eliminated altogether. The worst possibility is that you still have to pay your fine, but will have experienced first-hand the judicial system in action. From what I hear, most folks find the experience worthwhile.
4. If you are thinking about contesting the ticket, the city parking code can be found on line. It’s in Title 16 of the Portland City Code. Some of the disabled zone violations are found in ORS Chapter 811, also on line. You do yourself a favor by educating yourself before disputing a ticket.
5. If you are just upset about the officer’s demeanor, you can contact the City’s parking enforcement division (it’s part of the office of transportation) and register your concern. Contacts can be located on line. They may even have a form to use. At the same time, you might consider expressing positive sentiments toward an officer who excused a ticket or was particularly courteous or understanding or went out of their way to be of assistance unrelated to their parking enforcement duties.
6. As to those pesky mid-block meters, the way to not deal with the change fumbling or credit card processing delays is to buy a prepaid card that works instantaneously when you plug it into the cc slot. Look on the sign post above most of the machines and there is a little sign with a number to call for information.
That’s all I can think of. If you have a general question about how the system works (not about a specific ticket or to get legal advice–neither of which I can help you with), feel free to e-mail me at michael.c.zusman at ojd.state.or.us.
Now, can we talk about food again?
Kim Price says
Thank you very much. This blog has inspired me to complain where it could do some good and while I miss the focus on food, a 90 minute meter that goes till 9 PM will put a big dent in my dining in metered areas. I guess I will just have to learn to eat faster (it is unlikely I will be able to convince the symphony to play faster though).
Thanks for your comment about higher state tax! I wanted to say the same thing only
I didn’t have the figures. Great point, and well said!
Thanks for your reply!
And I agree “wholeheartedly” about whole foods!
Pardon my enthusiasm…I don’t get a chance to use a pun like that everyday… :)
When I moved to Portland a few years ago, I sold my car and have relied on foot, public transit and Zipcar ever since. I haven’t regretted that for a minute, and I’ve almost never felt inconvenienced without my own car. As a bonus I’ve saved many thousands of dollars in expenses. You can’t imagine how insignificant all these complaints sound to someone who gets by without a car and without any problems.As it turns out, cars are so 20th century.
Papaki is right! There is no city in the world worth its salt that doesn’t have what suburbanites and other provincials call “a parking problem or expensive parking” (New York, Paris, London, Rome etc etc)
It’s no coincidence that the most attractive cities are not so car-friendly.
I wouldn’t be caught dead in greater LA, Houston, Phoenix, and large swaths of Florida, which are monuments to car culture. Conditions are downright hostile and dangerous if you are walking, biking, or using public transport.
And I have to stifle a reaction when I hear people whine “I had to walk three whole blocks”. Excuse me? 1/8 of a mile? You kidding me? And how much are you paying for that MAC membership? The “strenuous hike” will do you good!
Overall I’m pleased with the parking meters. I like being able to use a card. However, if it’s broken I should be able to park free. How does the city’s failure to maintain their machines become my problem? Why should I be required (I am by the way) to hunt around for a working meter? This is analagous to TriMet’s inability to maintain ticket dispensers and validation machines and making me get off MAX at every subsequent stop to hunt for working machines. If I don’t, I’m a criminal.
Perhaps what makes Portland so wonderful is that it’s NOT a “big” city like New York, Paris, London, Rome, etc…
New York and Oregon share a (basically) similar climate, great food, and a spirited music and art scene…so why aren’t we all living there? I for one like Portland because it’s got the pros of a bigger city, yet has avoided many of the cons.
I for one would rather not be like any of the aforementioned cities.
And as Food Dude pointed out, the vital demographic is not the die hard who will walk, bike, or take public transportation.
quo vadis says
The self righteousness and self satisfaction of the “I don’t drive and everyone who doesn’t do what I do sucks” is just really grating.
Um…. so should a person who lives out in Gresham, owns a small business downtown, gets out of work where all the bus stops are pretty dangerous for a woman to be alone at a time when buses have stopped running regularly and has to carry the day’s cash for deposit behave in the same way some smelly hipster d-bag who hates everyone who has a car does?
What about people with businesses that have to shop every day? Car needed? What about all the crimes against women? What about people who, living off tips, have to carry a lot of cash on them late at night?
To those who don’t drive (guess what-neither do I- I just don’t think that makes me better or more moral or more correct than anyone else) and say “doesn’t affect me”…
It does and it will.
Whatever hurts businesses will affect you.
And it will affect your children. And your elderly parents. And the people who live off the state.
Free parking after 7pm is one of the reasons I come down town at all. Changing this to 9pm is going to be a consideration when we think about heading downtown. It’s not so much the money, it’s simply the principal of the issue. All this means is that I’ll be taking my business more to the places around 23rd as my work maintains a 24hr parking lot nearby that I can use for free. Or, I’ll be traveling further east outside the down town area for my dining experiences.
I feel bad for those who have to work down there, and now have to pay an extra two hours worth of parking.
I can understand the parking increase to a degree, but the logic of a parking cost increase to pay for streets is a little puzzling. If the fee increase is meant to pay for street improvements all over Portland, should only the few areas with paid parking in Portland be made to fund them? Or is this a case of, if you are going to these areas you must have money so we will take it from you? Something like an increase in the local gas taxes makes more sense as it spreads the burden of street improvements to most users of the streets.
As many people mentioned the 90 minute limit is a problem. They should increase the maximum time you can buy to 3hrs.
To those that say ride your bike, have you tried to find good bike parking downtown lately near the restaurants we are talking about? The on-street parking they added is great, but often totally filled.
I don’t think this will make parking in the area better and it will decrease my dining out.
I’d rather see them raise prices .50 an hour and leave the hours alone. The real problem is you can’t come downtown for an evening out without having to move your car. I’m lucky because I live downtown, but I feel for others.
To Nancy: I woudn’t tempt the fates. My perception is the parking enforcement is vigilant indeed. I’m pretty on-point while paying for parking and I’ve been nailed many a time within 15 minutes or less after my tag expired. I know plenty of others who’ve had numerous tickets.
I’m glad to see that the extended hours has been scrapped…that’s a big relief, though I can’t say I’m thrilled about paying on Sundays. Sunday is my favorite day to go to work for the singular reason that I can park for free and close by the restaurant! No 12 block walk on Sunday.