Enforcement of new downtown Santa Cruz pay stations flawed, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: Last week, I was in downtown Santa Cruz to go to Logo's and parked in the lot to the rear of the store. I went to the new parking lot payment box and paid for one hour, with the receipt showing my time expired at 1:53 p.m. I did my shopping and I came rushing out to my car afraid that I was 'late' and found a citation on my windshield. I was upset -- the citation price is $40 -- but was resigned to paying it until I looked at the time of the citation --  1:11 p.m. I wrote a note and took the citation to the parking office. They said it wasn't a problem, would be reviewed and they would contact me by mail. My issue is with their explanation of how it happened. It seems that the parking enforcement folks go to the payment box, run a report, and then make their way through the lot writing citations. Unfortunately, this can take them some time to go through the lot and finish their task. In the meantime, some unsuspecting person can park and pay in a spot that was previously shown as empty. The thing that bothers me is that it is up to me to spend the time to contact the parking office with receipt and citation in hand -- and pay another fee to park downtown to resolve the problem. I wonder how many people don't look at their citations and just assume they got distracted and missed the expiration time.  The nice thing about the new system is that you are able to add time anywhere there is a box as long as you know your space number. But if it leads to the city collecting 'fines' for folks who don't deserve them, it seems the system needs some revision. I'm all for keeping my money local and I don't begrudge the city for collecting money for parking. But there's an awful lot of local places who don't charge for parking -- and don't give citations in error.  I think they'll probably get my local dollars from now on. I suggest that everyone look carefully at citations Santa Cruz City writes and I suggest the city figure out a better way to enforce their rules. Beth via email A: Marlin Granlund, city parking program manager, says parking enforcement officers run 20-30 reports from the pay stations in at attempt to avoid "the issue of people paying after they run the report and are enforcing." Perhaps, the reader entered the incorrect space number her vehicle was parked, he suggested.  "One of the big problems we have been seeing lately is that people are forgetting their space number or they transpose the numbers when inputting them into the paystation" said Granlund. "Something new that we are seeing is that people are taking a picture of their space number with their cell phone so they don’t have to rely on their memory when they get to the paystation." His department is currently working on is giving customers the ability to pay for their parking spot via their cell phone. This service could be up and running in about 12 months, he said. "I will let you know more about this when we get closer to implementation," Granlund said. Stay tuned.
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