Other than being a member of the media and maybe the IRS, being someone who enforces parking rules has to be one of the worst jobs to have.
You figure your job is to manage to ticket as many vehicles as you can in the course of your shift. You shouldn’t worry that the driver may be elderly or handicapped, in an important meeting where there’s no escape or maybe the driver just dropped dead on the sidewalk from a heart attack. Too bad, eh?
For anyone who is dreaming, not paying attention, really in denial or possibly just plain stupid, the number one – repeat – number one issue in the Borough of West Chester is parking. No arguments, no debate, nothing. It’s the parking stupid…
Many a good downtown has been killed by out-of-date, unfair or silly parking rules. In case anyone in charge has missed this one, the goal of the town, city or borough is to BRING IN traffic for businesses. The goal IS NOT to drive people away, to make them so mad that they never visit again. It’s not good public relations, it’s not smart business and it certainly doesn’t enhance the reputation.
And trust me, reputation is everything. Almost to a person, when I’ve ever discussed West Chester with another human, the absolute first thing they talk about is parking. For example, “Hey, it’s a great place to go to. Great shops, restaurants. But where can you park?” Or the favorite, “Yeh, it’s a great town but I never go there. I was in a store for five minutes and came out to a parking ticket. I’m never going back there” Folks, this is no bull.
My own personal experiences, yes, personal experiences, have been just awful. There was the time a summer or two ago while dropping off one of my kids to his job in town that I was verbally assaulted, and I mean downright nasty, mean, rude and arrogant, by a member of the parking posse.
It was early in the morning and I pulled to the side of the empty street. There was not one car anywhere to be seen. It happened that where I stopped, half of my car was near a handicapped spot, half not so much. The meter person in her army-like outfit stormed to my driver’s side window and yelled at me to move the car. I calmly tried to explain that such a move would be dangerous since there was a person getting out of the other side.
That explanation wasn’t good enough for her and she continued to bark orders like Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf during Desert Storm. I again explained that I wasn’t parked and that my son was now out of the car and that I would be moving once she stopped yapping like a terrier. With that I simply put up my window and drove away. She apparently was just as happy to continue to stand there and even had some choice words for my kid. I was tempted to return to the scene of the crime and try to give her some basic behavior tips including how to act so the world won’t hate you but hey, some people are just born that way.
Another one? Sure. There was the visit to West Chester University where I parked on a basically deserted side street, about 100 yards from any other vehicle with about 3 or 4 various IDs that labeled my vehicle as a member of the press. One of the IDs was from the University itself. Didn’t matter a lick – there was the ticket, flapping in the breeze under the wiper blade.
About a month ago I was parked outside WCHE doing my weekly morning team gig when I came out 8 minutes past the time on the meter. Oh well, another “gotcha” for the meter posse.
This morning, however, was the last straw. I arrived at WCHE a couple minutes before 8 a.m. I put a quarter in the meter and? Nothing. Ate the quarter. So like a fool I put four more quarters in and to my surprise it registered 60 minutes of peace of mind.
Well, of course I was this morning 7 minutes past the time I had paid for and how did you guess, another ticket. Meter person Fomba, ID number 43, had gotten me again. This time I marched myself to Borough Hall and reported the meter error. And I have three eyewitnesses who heard me complain that the meter ate my first quarter.
Now is all of this nonsense really a good use of my time? Nope. Will I continue the in-person WCHE visits on Thursdays? Not likely. I can do it from my house or my car via my cell phone. Why would I risk another ticket? And if I have that attitude (and I do spend a few bucks for coffee, etc. before heading to the office) how many others share that same opinion?
Meter peeps: do yourself a favor and use some common sense. If you make your rounds and you see a minute or two left don’t hide in the bushes waiting for the red flag to pop in. Really? Wouldn’t it be better community relations to keep moving down the street and possibly check on the return waddle? Then give the person a ticket. A few minutes is one thing, a half-hour is another.
And I realize you have a quota. (Please don’t lie and say you don’t) But if you just do your job the right way, you will hit your quota. And perhaps there will be fewer people who will despise you for your urban terrorist tactics.
I seriously doubt any of you will listen to my suggestions but it does make me feel better. And I’m sorry to the downtown businesses that won’t get any of my cash once a week. I’m sure I’m not gonna ruin their businesses. But multiply me times a few hundred and perhaps the closed businesses are the fault of the broken parking rules.
It’s time to get the heads out of the sand as WCHE’s Bill Mason suggested. Folks, there is a problem and the quicker you accept it and try to fix it, the better the downtown will be and that means more money for the businesses and more for the borough. Until that happens, at some point you will be kissing your downtown farewell.
— Andy Hachadorian