Read This If You Own A Car and Park It In Albuquerque

I want to tell you about something that happened to me. But first, let me frontload my sad tale with a giant dose of self-flagellation to ward off the criticism that I know I probably deserve.
I know that getting a parking ticket is bad and wrong and not paying that parking ticket is even badder and wronger. I was a bad and wrong person, specifically in the area of parking tickets. If my dad is correct, and getting parking tickets is a sign of bad character, then I am truly rotten and probably deserve to go straight to Hell.
So, a few weeks ago I parked my car on Gold Ave. and caught the 10:37 a.m. train to Santa Fe to attend the Legislature. I was in an extreme hurry to catch the train (chatty neighbor; long story) and so I parked my car in the closest place I could find - a two hour, metered spot. I figured I would eat the ticket when I got back in town at 5:30 or so.
Bad mistake.
I ended up having to stay in Santa Fe later and got back on the train around 9:30. As I walked in the dark from the depot I saw my car and I saw a ticket. Then I saw the bright yellow boot and a giant notice taped to my window telling me I couldn't get my car back until Metro Court opened Monday morning at 8 a.m.
The giant notice said Albuquerque Parking Enforcement booted my car for outstanding unpaid parking tickets. Parking Enforcement booted my car a few minutes after 5. Even if I had been in town, there would have been no way for me to get the boot removed before court closed for the weekend.
I checked around with everyone I could think of - the after-hours parking emergency number (ha!), the police, 311, local towing services, the Downtown Action Team - and found that NO ONE could help me. But not just that - no one I talked to knew that the city was even doing this.
If it would have been a normal Friday night, I might have been okay with not having my car for the next two days. But it was APS spring break and I was supposed to drive to Phoenix with my family IN MY CAR first thing Saturday.
After a brief spell of hysteria followed by a lengthy bout of catatonia, I became resigned to the fact that I was going to have to upset my young sons DEEPLY and postpone our vacation.
I was angry at myself, sure. Like I said, parking tickets are very wrong and bad. I mean, according to the giant notice, I had four of them, dating back to 2005. I was obviously a hardened criminal worthy of the most severe punishment.
But seriously, it seemed a little harsh for the city to effectively seize my car for more than 48 hours with absolutely no warning and no recourse. I never got any notices about the tickets, probably because I moved around a bit since 2005. Once booted, I had no chance to rectify my horrible mistake until the cold light of Monday a.m.
And I have to say, I wasn't at all thrilled about leaving my nice shiny car down on Gold all weekend. Because of all the booming cruisers jamming the avenue, I could barely get across the street to hop into my friend's car for a ride home. I didn't feel safe down there - what about my car?
Long story short, I jumped through all the little mazes on Monday morning and paid all my fees - including $50 for the boot removal - and I got my beloved car back, unscathed. I made my trip to Phoenix later that week.
But as I shared my story with people, I was struck by how many other hardened criminals I ran into. Lots of people in Albuquerque, it seemed, had unpaid parking tickets. But nobody had any idea they could get booted.
So it seems to me the city of Albuquerque needs to get busy with some kind of - dare I say - "promotional effort" to let people know the city can actually deprive them of their car for an entire weekend. I consider myself quite an avid news consumer and I never heard of it in the news nor saw any written notice of it, anywhere.
I guarantee more people would pay up if they knew.

Views: 1889

Comment by Tracy Dingmann on April 27, 2009 at 7:08pm
Like I said, I'm truly rotten and probably going to Hell.
Ever gotten a parking ticket?
Comment by Baker A+D on April 27, 2009 at 7:29pm
I was having lunch with a colleague and we watched the meter maid working out something on his company truck. Turns out, they had outstanding parking tix and were booting the truck. It's happening. Now you know. Albuquerque is cracking down on unpaid tickets. I guess my question is why don't you pay them? And if you were plannig on just "eating" one when you got back, does "eating" mean paying? Or does "eating" mean ignoring. It would be helpful to know how many tickets did you pay before the boot? I mean what are the percentage of paid vs. unpaid?
Comment by Lee on April 30, 2009 at 10:44pm
No offense but I'm curious... what did you think cities did when people don't pay 5 tickets in a row ?
Comment by bg on May 1, 2009 at 7:19am
Here is a real parking story from downtown. And no, you don't get warnings.

Christmas Eve day morning my neighbors (a whole building that has on-street parking) were directed For The First Time Ever that due to the luminaria bus tour, their cars would need to be removed from the street by noon. One person in the building who had a car parked on the street was Out of Town. On Christmas Eve day, imagine that. With no prior warning about having to move their car, no advance notice, nothing. From their regular on-street assigned parking.

Soon enough, the police came to remove the car. The neighbors (me, a butinski) tried to explain, but the orders came from On High. The car was towed, impounded and the owner had to pay around $200 to get it out. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the City of Albuquerque.

As I said, this was a new policy for which the building received no prior notice. The person on vacation had no way to get the car moved. Who could have anticipated this?

There was no recourse on the fine or anything. Nice, huh?
Comment by slamwagon on May 1, 2009 at 8:34am
We still have Texas plates adorning our Land Yachts... my wife received a Red Light Scamera Ticket... ABQ mailed it to Houston, it was then forwarded back to us in ABQ. Do we pay it?
Comment by slamwagon on May 1, 2009 at 8:34am
@Tracy Sounds like that's par for the course when it comes to municipal parking enforcement.
Comment by cathyray on May 1, 2009 at 9:01am
yep, you been a bad, bad girl. Isn't it great that our crime rate has dropped so much that cops can go after the real offenders, illegal parkers? A truly sucky situation but one that could have easily been dealt with before it came down to "da boot".
Comment by Tracy Dingmann on May 1, 2009 at 12:11pm
Wow, I see this has sparked a good discussion. I'll try to address a few things, since there are some questions. Simple ones first: To Slamwagon - Yes! Pay your ticket (that was sort of the point of the piece). To ABQmom: Exactly....that's really what I was trying to do...warn normal people that this can happen. To Lauren: Whoa! Harsh. So I guess you are a perfect person then? I truly, truly, truly do not get people like you. To Cathyray: Yes! That was the point of my piece...I didn't pay my parking tickets and that was just stupid (not, I daresay CRIMINAL). I was punished in a way I did not even know existed and which I thought was unduly harsh. I wanted to warn others who have unpaid parking tickets - a fairly large group of people who I assure you are fine, upstanding citizens - that this fairly drastic thing can happen. And yes, I did try (maybe not pointedly enough) to make the point that PERHAPS there are other things happening in Albuquerque that would better warrant the incredibly labor-intensive process of enforcement (that rat maze I was talking about) than overdue parking tickets.
Fire away.
Comment by Tracy Dingmann on May 1, 2009 at 12:18pm
And oh, I forgot to reemphasize my final and perhaps most important point. Perhaps, if the city really wants to collect on parking tickets, maybe they should make it crystal clear what could happen. This boot policy could be really effective on hardheads like me if it was better known.
Just think, proactivity could save the city some money.
Comment by Masshole in Fringecrest on May 1, 2009 at 12:50pm
Number One: If the city were to pay for "a promotional campaign" then that would cut into the profit gleaned from the offenders in the first place.

Number Two: I can never never never never never park my car in Boston. Not paying the tickets in the first place was my "warning". I have never received notice from the City of Boston. I know that I didn't pay the tickets,. I know i'll get the boot.

Is the premise of your argument that the city should be beholden to remind people that they may have some consequences coming their way? Despite your unfortunate tale, seems a little far-fetched. It's 2009. The Denver Boot was invented in 1944 and first used by the City of Denver in 1955 (they made $18,000 in the first month). 50-60 years seems like a pretty fair warning.


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