I currently work as a Parking Enforcement Officer in the wonderful city of Toronto. I am feared, and loathed by all. I may not work in your particular city, but I'm positive that I can help give you a better understanding of what Meter Maids do. I am knowledgeable in all parking matters so ask me anything.
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I feel like the phrase emotionally taxing is an understatement. It's very hard not to take this job home with you. People don't only insult your job but they insult your actual character. I am not there to ruin peoples lives, I am there only there to do my job and people need to understand that. I am not going out of my way to make you miserable, you just happened to park illegally on the street I decided to turn on. It was very difficult for me when I first started this job. I never ever thought of people as horrible, and chose to think that people were inherently good (minus a few bad apples). Naive, I know. But what I have come to realize is that most people are only nice to you when they want something: to take their ticket back. Sometimes random people on the street go out of there way to tell me off, and wish malicious things upon me and my family. I am not a piece of garbage, nor am I your punching bag. I am sorry you are having a bad day, but there's nothing I can do for you. That is why I appreciate the times when I get a thank you, a smile or words or encouragement from the public. It makes me feel human again.
I have seen people dodge cars, people and street cars to race me to their cars, I have had people plead for mercy, offer to give me money and even offer me their first born child. People get worked up over parking tickets, they will do almost anything to get out of a ticket. Some people have even gone out of their way to flirt with me in hopes that I will change my mind about serving them the ticket which I find very insulting. If someone approaches me and can give me a valid reason while I should take it back, I more than likely will. But like I mentioned before, be nice and I will return the favor. People are usually pleasant as pie when they are trying to get out of a ticket, but if I choose to serve the ticket I see their true colors. I have been called every name in the book, and some you couldn't even imagine. It's just a parking ticket, not the end of the world. The times I decide to take the ticket back, people usually offer to buy me coffee or food to thank me. A simple thank you is enough.
I stated earlier that if it isn't served to your vehicle your home free, but jumping into your car and driving away isn't always the best solution. It's rude and and it's dangerous because your main focus is to avoid getting the ticket and you may not notice other cars, cyclists or people around you. It is also dangerous for the officer as well, as some of my coworkers have been hit by doors, had their feet run over etc. because someone was in a rush to get away from them. What I mentioned was that it is simpler for you to actually say "Hi, I'm here, I'm leaving" rather than attempting to drive off.
I can understand the publics frustration with confusing and improper signage. I can admit that signs can be conflicting and confusing even to parking officials at times. I usually shy away from ticketing people in areas with missing or insufficient signage. Like I have mentioned before, it is in your best interest to look at all the signage near your car to ensure that you are parked legally. If you are continually finding issues with signage you may be better off parking in a private lot or on another street. It is also important to note That we personally do not put up the signs and That the city is responsible for their maintenance. I also must admit That when a parking officer is assigned to one area for a long period of time and is used to certain sections to be prohibited, it's easy for us to overlook a missing sign and assume That it's still there. This is not an excuse, but it can happen from time to time. We are only human, we can make mistakes. This is why you have the right to take your ticket to court.
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I actually have had someone charged for using a permit that did not belong to them. In Toronto we have a specialized unit called the Disabled Liaison Unit that patrols the city for those who abuse disabled permits. The number of people using disabled permits has been increasing substantially in the last little while, and it seems like doctors are issuing them to patients for just about anything these days. It's difficult in these situations because all we can do as parking officials, is go around and confiscate misused ones. Even if it doesn't seem like an individual has a disability, the permit may be registered in their name and we cannot do anything. I have heard stories about people stealing permits, buying permits and also using the permits of deceased relatives, just to get free parking. People have even gone as far as to create counterfeit permits and selling them to anyone they can. What people don't realize is that every permit has an identification number which helps determine the gender, age and name of the individual. Therefore we are able to better identify who could be misusing a permit and cross reference the permit holders info to that of the vehicle's registered owner.
I have seen some interesting "parking" violations in my time. In Toronto, parking in a disabled parking spot is considered the worst violation in terms of cost ($450). This violation would be very inconvenient for individuals who require the spot for better access. It is also important to mention that parking in front of a fire station is also a very bad idea and can affect how fast emergency vehicles can get to a call. I however find that the worst parking violations are those that are obstructing traffic. People have parked on street car tracks, cross walks, bike lanes, live lanes of traffic and even blocking intersections. There have been so many stupid parking violations that nothing surprises me anymore. One situation that comes to mind involved a large vehicle (I think it was a hummer), that was parked in front of a fire hydrant, facing the wrong direction and blocking half of a live lane of traffic. They assumed it was okay to park there because the passenger was inside the car while the driver stepped out "for just a minute." I gave the passenger the opportunity to move the vehicle but since she did not have a drivers license I issued the ticket.
I answered a similar question on April 25th submitted by Plastics. I don't know why some cities continue to use metered parking, but the trend seems to be moving toward using electronic machines. I am sure we will be finding more electronic forms of paid parking in most major cities in the near future.
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