If you’ve ever gotten a parking ticket, you’ve probably felt helpless and maybe even unjustly accused.
Maybe you’ll take your lumps and pay it and get on with your life. Maybe you’ll ignore it and fines will pile up until your car is booted and your credit is tarnished. Or, maybe you’ll check the box marked “hearing request” and try to see if you can talk to a human being about your ticket in an attempt to get it dismissed.
I can’t give you any tips or hints on how to get out of a ticket. But I can explain the process if you’d like to take your chances and fight a parking ticket in the City of Philadelphia. If you’re like most people, including me, you’ll lose. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try if you feel your ticket was unfair.
I wrote this because I searched for information online and couldn’t find much of anything that shed light on the process. So, if this is relevant to you, read on.
(If you parked like a jerk and know it and you’re just trying to weasel out of paying, just be an adult and pay it.)
The Philadelphia Parking Authority is notorious because of the A&E reality TV show, Parking Wars. It mainly focuses on people who’ve gotten towed and so it takes place down at the tow yard in South Philly, so my experience wasn’t like that, even though I was dealing with the same agency.
Anyway. First you’ll go to the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s website, click “pay your ticket,” then go down to the bottom where it says, “Need to dispute a violation?”
Click that, then you’ll end up here, where it pretty much says because you received a ticket, you probably deserved it, but if you want to argue with us about it, go ahead and request an in-person hearing. The subtext being, “I guess we have to give you this option because we live in a democracy, but it’s only for show because you wouldn’t have gotten a ticket if you didn’t deserve it, you jerk.”
You have to enter your ticket number, then it will give you options for dates and times. When I did this, I was impressed that the times offered were staggered just 15 minutes apart. Like me, you’ll think, “Wow, so it’ll just be like 15 minutes, cool!”
But really, they schedule a ton of people for the same time because half of them won’t show up. My hearing was at 11 a.m. on Nov. 26, and I’m sure everyone else who was there that day had an appointment for 11 a.m. on Nov. 26, too.
Make your way to 913 Filbert St. and get there 15 minutes before your scheduled time, as the website says. I took the Broad Street line then the El and got off at 8th Street, then just started walking north, completely walking past Filbert by three blocks. So I got there right at 11.
You’re going to have to stand in line as soon as you arrive to sign in. You’ll go to the next available window and be asked to sign something, then you’ll be told to have a seat. The room sort of feels like the waiting area at the DMV, except no numbers are called, just names.
Every so often, a hearing officer will open a door and call out a name, and that person will go back into the office area. But first, you have to wait. I had to wait for about an hour, but it flew by because I just wrote emails on my phone and stuff like that. It probably wouldn’t be worth it to bring your laptop because I’m guessing they don’t have public WiFi here.
I should mention that my hearing was the day before Thanksgiving and it was the day that we were rumored to be getting snow, even thunder snow. I thought maybe the weather and the fact that it was before such a feelgood holiday would work in my favor, but no dice.
Anyway, it seemed like many people brought a friend or two with them who waited for them. One guy walked from the hearing area into the waiting room and announced to his friend, “I lost! Let’s go!” and they both scuttled out. Another guy shook his head forlornly as he headed to the exit, another presumed loser.
Finally, the door opened and a woman called my name! I walked up to her and she instructed me to go down the hall to hearing room three. It’s basically the woman’s office, small with cinder block walls and your standard cheap work desk and chairs. She was very robotic and told me everything was being recorded, read the ticket number and violation and made me swear to tell the truth. Then I had my chance to explain.
My ticket was for “blocking a handicap ramp.” I didn’t know this but if you see a sidewalk cutout — imagine a driveway cutout in the curb like you see in the suburbs — it’s a ramp for people who use wheelchairs. So it’s not a ramp, it’s just a cutout in the curb. I partially blocked one, not even knowing I was doing anything illegal.
I figured since there was no sign saying not to park there, then maybe I could argue that and they’d dismiss it.
For a few days, I took photos of people parked the same way I had been parked in the exact same spot, the 1200 block of Mifflin, right at the end of my street, and none had tickets. (I had not taken any photos of my own car parked there; as soon as I noticed the ticket I moved it.) I wanted to demonstrate that this is how people park, and nobody seems to know it’s an illegal spot because it looks like a perfectly legitimate place.
I told her all this and showed her my photos, which I had printed out. She wasn’t impressed. She said just because everyone else parks there doesn’t mean its okay. There doesn’t need to be a sign — just because there’s no sign doesn’t mean it’s a legal spot.
And further, the cars in the photos I showed her were also less than 20 feet from the corner, so they were committing two violations. I should be happy I didn’t get a ticket for that too, she said.
I just was like, “Okay” and nodded, because I guess she did have a point. Then she said her decision was that the violation is upheld and I had to sign something and then I left.
Whatever. I have 30 days to pay the $76 fine, so at least I didn’t have to wait in line again.
Even though it took more than three hours out of my day and resulted in me having to play catch up on some work, I’m glad I went through this process. At least I tried. But I mean, why give me a ticket when everyone gets to park there without any consequences? Be fair about it, you jerks.
Have you ever successfully beaten a parking ticket?