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Appealing a Parking Ticket

That new parking lot at 23rd and Fairmount in a menace. If I get home after 7 PM I have to drive around for at least 15 minutes and then I wind up parking on Girard or Fairmount, at least a quarter mile from my home. I don't mind the walk, but in the cold and dark, I'm scared. I've been mugged in this neighborhood before. And, I pay my taxes. I'm a good eco-freak. I only drive when I'm going to be back after dark or the trip requires carrying something too big or bulky for my bike, or the trip is further than I'm willing to go by bike. I don't like to go over 4 miles either direction. My household has only one car. Why can't I park in on my block?

Well, during the day, there are the park and ride folks who take up spaces in my neighborhood. They don't want to pay the lot, so they park on my block. At night there are the bar and restaurant customers and who knows who else. They don't want to pay the lot, so they park on my block. So, I felt lucky to find a space near the corner of Brown and Ringold. And I parked there. I didn't block the handicap cutdown. I parked like my neighbors have always parked. Near the corner but not obtrusively. But I got a ticket. To make matters worse, I didn't drive my car for over a week, so I didn't go check on it. When I finally went to drive it again, the ticket had accumulated penalties. It was now up to $48. That's more than a month's fee at the lot.

But the lot is several blocks from my house. I could easily be mugged on the way home if I parked there. And why should I pay to park in my own neighborhood. I've lived here for nearly 8 years. Everybody has always parked up to the corner cutdowns. But since the lot came, now the parking authority is ticketing. Do the lot owners hope to intimidate us into paying them to avoid tickets? I'm having none of it. So, I appealed my ticket.

To be sure I wouldn't get another ticket, I rode my bike down to 909 Filbert and parked at a parking meter. Bikes don't have to pay to lock up at a parking meter. The office at 909 is grungy. Cracked and worn signs, scuffed grey paint. It's genuinely gloomy. But the waiting chairs do have padding, so it's not all bad. I signed in and then signed a form stating that I knew "All hearings will be tape recorded." And "You will be given the opportunity to protest either the fine or the penalty or both." And "The original or any true copy of the ticket containing all material information required by 12-2804 of the Philadelphia Code is prima facie evidence that the violation occurred, and the issuing officer will ordinarily not be required to be present at the hearing."

The form also says, "The hearing, held before a Parking Hearing Examiner, will be informal and rules regarding the admissibility of evidence shall not be strictly applied. The Examiner will make his/her decision based on all evidence presented."

So, after waiting about 10 minutes, I was called for my hearing. My hearing officer turned on a tape recorder and identified herself. She asked me to identify myself and give my address. She then read the ticket to me and asked why I was appealing it. I laid out three months of photographs of other cars parking the way I had parked, none of which had tickets on their windshields. I explained about the lot. She told me that I was in violation of the law, and that the ticketing officer was probably new and was not familiar with the parking problems in our neighborhood. Then she checked my record and saw that this was my only outstanding ticket. She told me any other examiner would probably make me pay the fine, but she was dismissing it because of my good record. 

When I left the examining room, I received a computer printout stating code 033 DISMISSED.

Now I have to fight a No Left Turn ticket that my husband got turning from West River Drive into Fairmount Park, towards the recycling center. A brief search of the Internet shows that the old No Left Turn signs are not in accordance with DOT specifications, which require a graphic of an arrow turning left overlaid by a red circle and slash. And, the fact that the only signs forbidding the turn are located at the turn itself, which is not visible until the driver is making the turn, do not meet the MotorVehicle Uniform Code published by the US Government Printing Office, which requires that the symbol signs appear not only at the site of the turn but also 1/4 mile prior to the intersection. Plus the fact that there was a police car sitting just out of sight of the turn, waiting to ticket people, shows that this turn is not sufficiently well marked, thus making it a lucrative cash cow. The MotorVehicle Uniform Code says that when signs are ineffective a barrier should be placed to prevent turns onto forbidden roads. Now there's a good use for that police car, until a fence can be installed.

Will the Traffic Court care about any of these facts? Will they care that my husband has had no moving violations for over 20 years? Will they decide that if a prudent driver like my husband, along with thousands of others, didn't see the No Left Turn sign until he had already completed the turn, then the sign is ineffective and should be supplemented with a barrier? Stay tuned.

Here are some links to help you fight your own tickets:

uniform motor vehicle code


and the book an road signs

fighting tickets:

more on road sign regulations:

Information on Red Light Cameras