Confusing overnight parking meters leave drivers frustrated

I was killing at karaoke. That is, I was killing everyone at Star Bar softly with Vanilla Ice's 1990 mega-hit "Ice Ice Baby." I'd memorized the lyrics when I was eight, even though I had no idea what "flow like a harpoon, daily and nightly" meant.

Truth be told, my killing wasn't so much soft as it was loud and shout-y. When the karaoke began that warm June evening, I'd already been guzzling cold cans of Avery Brewing's White Rascal, which was completely unnecessary, because despite my inability to carry a tune, I will do karaoke stone-cold sober. Luckily for my audience that night, "Ice Ice Baby" requires no actual singing, but it does force you to rap the lines "Quick to the point, to the point, no fakin'/Cookin' MCs like a pound of bacon."

Public Works has added stickers to meters in an attempt to clear up confusion.
anthony camera
Public Works has added stickers to meters in an attempt to clear up confusion.
Matt Wager and Cindy Patton of the city's Department of Public Works helped craft the overnight parking system.
anthony camera
Matt Wager and Cindy Patton of the city's Department of Public Works helped craft the overnight parking system.

The crowd was eating it up and I was on a roll, bobbing my head like a badass between verses. When I finished, there was a rainstorm of high-fives from the people I'd come with, all of whom are apparently fans of grown-ass women singing novelty rap songs. Or maybe they were just being polite — it was hard to tell.

A couple hours and at least one more song later, I paid my tab and called my fiancé (whom, incidentally, I had wooed two years earlier, on our first date, with a karaoke rendition of '90s R&B trio Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison"). Owing to my mass consumption of White Rascals and his good-hearted nature, he offered to meet me at the bar and drive my car home.

When I finally pushed through the throngs of adoring fans and out onto the Larimer Street sidewalk, I was greeted by a horrific sight. Wedged in the crack between the doors of my car, which I'd parked three hours earlier at a metered spot in front of the bar, was a bright-yellow envelope. I'd gotten an effing parking ticket.

But how was that possible? I'd paid the meter when I parked at 8:30 p.m. It was one of the city's newfangled Smart Meters, the kind with the digital display and the slot for your credit card. I'd swiped my Visa and then pushed the "plus" key to add as much time as possible. A sticker on the meter said payment was required until 10 p.m. and, sure enough, the meter would only accept an hour and a half's worth of money. Satisfied that I'd done my civic duty, I headed into the bar to do my duty to the gods of rock and roll.

My ticket, however, said I was a scofflaw. "Flashing Expired" was the reason listed. The time on the ticket was 10:17 p.m., the fine $25.

I'd heard that the city had recently implemented overnight parking at meters downtown, but I was sure I'd read the sticker correctly.

I hadn't — and it turns out I wasn't the only person confused. In May, June, July and August, the months for which the most complete data is available, parking enforcement issued a total of 28,700 tickets between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. to people caught breaking the brand-new rules, which most definitely require payment after 10 p.m.

*****

For years, meter parking downtown worked like this: Payment was required from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. From 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., parking was free. But you had to move your car off the street after that because parking was prohibited from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., which is when the street sweepers did their dirty work. Disobey, and you were gifted with a ticket.

Starting in 2005, the city began getting more and more requests for overnight parking, says Matt Wager, director of operations with the city's Department of Public Works. The pleas came from three different groups: residents who were quickly filling lower downtown's hip housing and wanted their overnight guests to be able to park on the street; downtown athletic clubs and breakfast restaurants whose pre-6 a.m. patrons were faced with few parking options; and late-night party animals — or, as Wager puts it, "people taking advantage of the amenities downtown who would call and say, 'I've had too much to drink and you're making me drive my car.'"

But back then, the city couldn't do much about it. Denver's meters were old and ill-equipped to make major changes. "We had, through the years, lost the ability to program them as accurately as we wanted," Wager says.

So Public Works surveyed the parking stock, identifying "hot spots" and meeting with interested parties to figure out what was needed in different parts of the city. The results showed that Denver didn't need more parking spots, says Cindy Patton, senior city planner with Public Works. Rather, it needed to better use the space it already had and to "manage parking as an asset" — one that could boost economic development downtown.

With the debut of Smart Meters in 2009, that got a whole lot easier. The new meters are highly programmable and capable of charging different amounts of money at different times, turning on and off on specified days and scrolling customizable (albeit dimly lit) messages on their LED screens. "That opened the door for us," Wager says.

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34 comments
SheilahT
SheilahT

Last time I visited downtown Denver, I parked at the very first meter on the block.  I pulled up so that the guy behind me would have an easier time pulling out as the guy behind him was very close.  I received a $25 ticket for not parking my front bumper flush with the meter.  So much for being polite. 

 

Last week, I parked and according to the signage on the meter fed it up until 10:00 p.m.  I returned at 10:15 to find a $25 parking ticket on the ground next to the door of my car. 

 

This is why I refuse to open a business in downtown Denver.  Any ill will my customers feel towards the parking situation will be directed at me on a subconscious level.  I don't want to have any part of it.  The department of public works must want to run people out of Denver or else they would not act that greedy. 

Gemma Huang
Gemma Huang

take a taxi if you're going downtown, you'll pay almost just as much for parking and tickets now that they are charging for street parking from 10pm-6am. We should give our money to taxi cab drivers who work hard for their money, not the city- they are only concerned with revenue, not the citizens rights

Red_Eye_Girl
Red_Eye_Girl

@More&More......I саn't bеlеivе.....Му friеnd's sistеr mаkеs 96/hr оn thе intеrnеt. Shе hаs bееn unеmрlоуеd fоr 9 mоnths but lаst mоnth hеr inсоmе wаs 8253 USD јust wоrking оn thе РС fоr а fеw hоurs. Gо tо this wеb sitе ....http://alturl.com/9kmq4

lg90
lg90

The City of Denver took an entire semester of college tuition from me by issuing unnecessary parking tickets. "More than 18 inches from the curb"!!!! Did the meter merry pull his ruler out???

Cherie Melton
Cherie Melton

my classmate's step-mother makes $75 an hour on the laptop. She has been laid off for 6 months but last month her income was $8148 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here's the site http://www.myurl.si/m2t

guest
guest

I got a ticket for "expired meter" after paying for two hours and coming back an hour later. I still had time on the damn meter when I came back to find the ticket. (This was on 13th near Pearl) I called the number on the meter and they said they couldn't help me.

I paid the ticket and will NEVER park at a meter again. Fuck the city of Denver and their stupid meters.

Asjkdfh
Asjkdfh

City of Denver...biggest crooks ever. I hate ever single one of those meter maids. The People behind the desks in the parking office need a new job, they are all so pathetic. I hope they are proud to dupe the public

Michael Lo
Michael Lo

ok here is the trick cause i got one.... On Friday regardless pay until 2 A.M. cause after that its free till Sunday. Read it carefully there is a catch 8 P.M - 10P.M. you pay on friday and from 10- P.M. to 2 A.M. Going into Saturday you still have to pay until 2.A.M..... Thats how you avoid the tickets.....

Richard
Richard

Bottom line: Any time you have govt. involved, look to getting screwed. Govt doesn't create jobs, but it can create waste. The meters are purposefully 'confusing' because the city govt has overspent (just like the fed govt), so they've come up with a typical govt idea -- let's confuse the people and we can get a lot of revenue from fines on our citizens. Wow, with a govt like that, who needs enemies. I'm so sick and fed up with govt (local and federal). They behave more like criminals -- corruption, lies, crony capitalism, pass the bill so you can see what's in it, cameras at intersections. I'm sick of Big Brother and their ideas on how to solve crises they create. When you vote, vote out the incumbents, and hopefully, we'll get some 'real' people in office who aren't constantly finding ways to screw you.

Guest
Guest

My wife and I have gotten parking tickets virtually every time we come downtown. Unfortunately, we have stopped patronizing downtown Denver establishments because of this. The parking system is onerous and, in my opinion, intentionally so to generate revenue.

gimmeabreak................
gimmeabreak................

I got a ticket even though we read every sign and the meter. To bad we missed the small print. Maybe the city should put a sticker of a cock being pushed into someone's ear next to the small overnight parking print so every reads it.

Kevin DK
Kevin DK

Interestingly enough "DP" is in the bureau's acronym (DPVB)

Autymnrubal
Autymnrubal

28,700 tickets at $25/each = $717,500.00 Where is this money going?

Pianodealer
Pianodealer

I am from out of town, live in the mountains, had to go to Denver for a business dinner on 16th and then to spend the night at the Sheraton downtown. So I followed my GPS to park as close as possible to the restaurant - the meter was totally confusing to me, it said Overnight Parking Allowed and took my credit card for payment to 10:00. How was I to know that I had to go back, move the car and pay again for overnight parking to be allowed? We all know that hotel parking is a rip-off, I knew I was leaving at about 6:00 in the morning so I thought it would make sense to leave the car on the street. The parking ticket that I got is the same cost as parking in the hotel lot overnight so I think the hotels are influencing this whole confusing parking policy and procedure - you did not mention hotels in your article so I thought I would bring it up. Seems to me that in this economy, businesses should make it free or cheap to park, luring people to come in instead of pushing you away. Good luck Denver! Go Broncos, go Tebow!

donewiththis
donewiththis

What a fantastic way to discourage people to come to downtown Denver. Excellent work Denver city government! As usual you have a bunch of idiots running the operation. This is exactly why...let me check the time... yes in an hour and a half the Denver Police are going to clash with the occupy Denver people in front of the State Capitol. Im Soooooooooo sick of this shit.

NEW METERS ARE DUMB
NEW METERS ARE DUMB

I recently got a ticket last night as well due to the confusing nature. From now on I will just use a private lot or drive home drunk. Thanks for nothing City of Denver.

Karen Jacobsen
Karen Jacobsen

I got a ticket in Cherry Creek for parking 2 hrs when I hadn't been there that long. In fact, they had me down for an hr before - when I was still at work! The meter maid was there -and he said well "your car was here"! What a goof ball. These guys must be incented to lie.

Coothie76
Coothie76

ms.asmar - very funny and personal story. i have a feeling that your relationship with parking meters and tickets has a l-o-n-g history. well done - keep up the fight!a big fan

Klyph14
Klyph14

The parking magistrate are full of just awful, awful people who feel no sympathy for human beings.

I got a expired tag ticket in front of my house on a monday when i had returned home from work. The following morning I went to the dmv to renew my tags and when I returned home to my car I had ANOTHER of the exact same ticket. When I went to the magistrate and explained that I was at the DMV the earliest possible moment it opened doing the right thing (and showed proof on my DMV receipt) he said it was still illegally parked and he would not dismiss the second ticket. When I asked him what I should have done he replied 'moved it off denver city streets.' When I asked "Isn't it illegal to drive a car with expired tags?" he replied 'Yes.' When I asked "Then how could I have moved it off the street if it is illegal to drive?" he replied 'That is the citizens responsibility. If you have a problem with this then you must book a court date'.

So now I have court on Tuesday. Thanks magistrate. Have fun destroying peoples day behind your 7 foot desk.

kukes
kukes

Why do I keep getting parking tickets? Because the enforcement officer is too lazy to get out of his/her truck BEFORE writing the ticket. Now I am stuck paying for stamps and taking the time to copy my handicap parking card and parking card registration form to send in.

Peter Rejcek
Peter Rejcek

I don't see how this a great thing except for the city ... Your friends who came to visit downtown could park for free after 10 and just make sure they had moved their car or fed the meter in the morning. Lame.

CnstandDV
CnstandDV

That is the problem with Denver ( well on of the many). Let's rip off every resident and visitor. I wonder where that money ends up? It's not to fix the streets, lights, pot holes and sidewalks. It is not to fund officers to patrol the streets ( of course that might be a good thing as DPD is 4th in the nation for brutality). I have to ask the question why some company's have to close, is it because people don't want to come Downtown anymore? I would say sure. If I think about going Downtown for dinner or to visit at the bars, I have to budget half a pay check to cover Parking ( street or garage), then pay the over priced meal and drinks they charge, so they can pay the outrages rents and parking them selves. I could rant a bit more but I won't , I am sure you get the picture.

Lee
Lee

Thank god for this article! I am not alone, apparently. These labels on the meter are so vague that the DPVB might just make another $500,000.00 by deliberately confusing people.

Maybe the DPVB should just do a simpler system that would be easier to adhere to and would also create more revenue. Maybe a 5 day all meter pass for $10.00 or something? Just buy the sticker or whatever and put it in the windshield and you're good.

ihopnavajo
ihopnavajo

Thank you Westword for this useful article! I recently parked downtown and knew about the overnight parking, but I assumed it was from 2 - 6 a.m. I was in the same situation as you and thought since the machine wouldn't let me go past 10, I was safe. This just seems like an egregious excuse to gyp downtown tax payers out of even more money. Luckily for me I don't have to park downtown and won't in the future... and if I actually do, I'm back to my reliable parking garages.

Ronald_wales
Ronald_wales

come on folks it is another way to stick it to you and your friends and family-so they can pinch your pennies from you-it is about time to revolt about it-if not--it will cost you more than you can even imaging-good luck suckers-next time take a taxi--or walk

Citizen
Citizen

I wonder what the statistics would look like if you looked at all the people who get DUI's and get into drinking related accidents after leaving bars downtown. Now how many of those would happen if you would just let people park there overnight? I supposed a lot of people might drive anyway. Do they have to clean the streets every night? Couldn't they just do it m-f?

Jdmeunger
Jdmeunger

denver has got to be the most money hungry ticket giver i have ever seen, soon you will have to pay to park on the street in front of my own house.

jefgat
jefgat

@Red_Eye_Girl  Did your sister get a parking ticket from parking by Denver's all-night parking meters?

jefgat
jefgat

@Cherie Melton  Was she working on her laptop in her car that was parked near one of Denver's overnight meters?

steven
steven

what a dick...karma is a bitch though, i am sure they will get what is coming to them from some disgruntled patron...

Guest
Guest

No they couldn't. They could park for free after 10pm UNTIL 2am. Then they had to move. Before this new overnight parking policy, no parking was allowed on-street between 2am and 6am.

John
John

Already have that in Milwaukee.

Lee
Lee

Close... NY, LA and Chicago are waaaay worse.

 
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