So here I was all ready to play nice, to be humble and give the West Chester meter folks a break and not be so nasty. I figured everyone is entitled to a mistake or two at times. We aren’t any different here at the newspaper.
Then one of my kids took a message from a caller to my cell phone. It was from someone at the West Chester Borough Parking Authority.
“Tell him the parking ticket he received is valid,” the voice apparently squawked.
I got the message. And I’m not the least bit happy about it. It’s kind of like me telling one of you that it’s 1:30 in the afternoon here on sunny Bradford Avenue but really, it’s dark as night. Of course you’d tell me I was crazy, that it’s obviously light out, sunny and still daytime. But I would continue to argue that no, it’s dark out. Yes it’s 1:30 p.m., but no, it’s not light out. You get the picture.
The meter folks, from the supervisors down to most of the army of patrol peeps, are dead wrong on this one. There’s no argument. Their machinery malfunctioned. They promised to look into the ticket and get back to me. I have serious doubts they really did anything but wait a few days and then call me. I have absolutely no faith that anything is done by this organization is above board. They say they don’t have a quote system and perhaps there is nothing in writing. But we all know that’s nonsense. It’s all about the revenue – that’s how they keep their jobs. A meter person who doesn’t write tickets is of no value to the borough.
So let’s review…
Last Thursday while making the trip to WCHE for the weekly radio spot I do, I found myself in front of the station at about 7:55 a.m. or so. I was way early but that was OK. I pulled five quarters – count ‘em, five – from my change container in my car. I got out of the car, plunked in the first quarter and zippo. Nothing. I then dropped in another one and magically it worked so I added three more giving me four quarters worth of time for the price of five quarters. Which by the way, if you think about it, that’s another swell way for the borough to raise revenue. That is, rip people off of time by having a malfunctioning meter and then tag them for the ticket.
For the record, three people in the station heard me gripe that the meter ate my first quarter. They will be called as witnesses but hey, I’m sure we’ll all be accused of lying. After all, meter patrols are never to blame…
I ran out of the station at about 9:05 a.m. knowing that the meter would be close to running out but I had been out of quarters. By the time I got out there it was – a ticket from Officer Fomba, Badge #43, issued at 9:03 a.m. Now this is very simple math, easy enough for even the sharpest of meter peeps. The uncounted quarter would have given me until 9:10 a.m., plenty of time.
So I took my ticket to the office at borough hall where I was given a smile, and an assurance that someone would examine the meter and let me know. Almost a full week went by before I received the call. What happened in that time?
Meanwhile, I contacted POM Inc., makers of the borough’s meters and actually exchanged e-mails with a representative of the company which is more than I can say for West Chester Borough. Here’s the answers I received regarding how it would be possible for their units to steal the first quarter:
“It could be several things. First, if you reach the time limit of the meter and continue to insert coins, they will not give additional time past the time limit. Second, if one of those coins were a Canadian coin, it would not register. You would be surprised how easy it is to overlook a rogue Canadian coin in a handful of quarters. I do that all the time. When that happens, an invalid coin “dot” will appear just below the colon on the digital display. Third, if you insert 2 coins almost simultaneously (not easy, but can be done), only one will register. Fourth, if a jam has started, i.e. from a too-full coin box backing up into the mechanism, coins will give time until one finally stops in the RF coils of the coin chute, at which time the “Out of Order” signal will appear and subsequent coins will cease giving time when inserted. When that time runs down, the JAM message will also appear.
“The meter repair technicians at West Chester have been to my meter training class numerous times, and they are well versed in how to perform preventive maintenance and troubleshooting to ensure optimum coin recognition. Any time you have a problem, just give them a call and report the specific meter location number and what happened, and they can check it out.
Bobra Wilbanks, Technical Sales Manager
“I can’t say, maybe they found a Canadian quarter in the coin box or invalid coin for that meter in the audit report; maybe they did a coin check/test mode on the meter and it checked out in good working order. We just sell the meters to the cities and teach them how to do preventive maintenance and troubleshooting, how to run maintenance and audit reports, etc. We don’t get involved beyond that point and we can’t assist individuals in fighting their tickets because that would be a conflict of interest since our customer is the borough of West Chester.
Bobra Wilbanks, Technical Sales Manager”
Now of course they can’t help me fight the ticket but I find it amazing that they can’t explain how the units are checked for malfunctions.
So here’s my suggestion. If you have received a ticket in error, call or e-mail these people:
Parking Enforcement Manager
Technical Sales Manager
Folks, don’t be intimidated by people who supposedly monitor parking meters. We’re talking parking meters. We’re not talking nuclear devices, we’re talking parking meters. It has to be one of the simplest things to work with yet they cause more headaches and problems for this town than anything else I can think of.
So I will be heading to district court to fight this one. And I sure hope Fomba and the rest of his/her crew are prepared to explain the devices and how they work or don’t work.
I may be the first American to take a parking ticket to the U.S. Supreme Court…
— Andy Hachadorian