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The perils of Victoria’s parking ‘police’

November 8, 2013

Most drivers are familiar with the annoyance of receiving a parking ticket, but getting one for a questionable reason is particularly galling, Steve Wallace writes.  Photograph by: BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

Most drivers are familiar with the annoyance of receiving a parking ticket, but getting one for a questionable reason is particularly galling, Steve Wallace writes. Photograph by: BRUCE STOTESBURY, Times Colonist

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, November 6th 2013

My first brush with overzealous City of Victoria parking enforcers was odd at best and bizarre at worst.

I had pulled over on Yates, a one-way street, just past Cook Street in order to talk to a car salesman at one of the local dealerships. I did not have any money to put in the parking meter. I got out of my car and walked about 10 metres over to the sales guy, who gave me some coins. I walked back to the meter and deposited the money.

As I was doing this, a driver who had gone by backed up and pulled alongside my car. He got out of his car, which was parked in the traffic lane, and then placed a parking ticket on my car. I asked him what he was doing, and he replied that when he had gone by he noticed that there was no money in my meter and that required an issuing of a parking ticket.

I told him that the meter had just been paid and explained the situation. He said he did not care about the explanation and further told me to take it up with city hall. I was flabbergasted, and had a few choice words for him as he drove merrily on his way. Not only did he dangerously back up a one-way street, but he had blocked other motorists when it would have been easy to pull over and park, since I was the only person parked on that side of the street.

To make a long story short, the ticket was forgiven by the city staff. Such a “neighbourhood nuisance” parking enforcer certainly does hurt the City of Victoria’s reputation.

One day, while returning to my car, I saw a parking ticket on it. This seemed very strange, because I had paid the proper amount and arrived back at the meter in plenty of time. I complained to the employee behind the window wicket at city hall. He looked at all the information at hand, and as it turned out, I had entered the wrong parking space number at the meter. All was forgiven after it was explained to me that the first ticket offence was nearly always negated as a policy decision. The polite but firm gentleman behind the counter was protected by a glass cubicle. Since I had no previous violations, “pheasant under glass,” as he is referred to affectionately, said I did not have to pay the fine.

On a Saturday morning, I saw a meter enforcer ticket the only car parked for a clear four blocks on a popular downtown street. I asked him why he would issue the citation, when there were no other vehicles on the street for several blocks. He said he had his marching orders, and it did not matter.

The whole principle of parking enforcement is to provide for an efficient turnover of vehicles in high-demand areas. Strange enforcement behaviour indeed.

Last week I watched as a commissionaire stopped his vehicle across a commercial driveway, interrupting a viable business’s free parking lot for several minutes in order to issue a parking ticket. As I watched the ridiculous performance of a civic duty, the paranoid parking rent-a-cop shouted gleefully that he was exempt from all parking regulations in the performance of his duties.

Most city officials think that rigorous enforcement of metered street parking is a revenue-producer. They are wrong. It discourages business activity.

Do you have a positive or negative Victoria public parking-meter story?

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.

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