Patt Morrison for August 9, 2011

Dude, where’s my car? Unpaid parking tickets get you towed in L.A., but how do you get it back with no cash?

Mercer 20104

Paul Gorbould/Flickr

This particular tow truck wont be bothering anyone.

Parking tickets--just thinking about them can make almost anyone’s head (and wallet) hurt. Gone are the good old days when a quarter bought you an hour and if you didn’t make it back in time, the total amount of your fine had a two in front of it—as in 20 bucks, give or take. Now a quarter gets you about 15 minutes and the fine can amount to half a week’s worth of groceries (for some), give or take a few bucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we were penalized based on how many minutes late we were getting back to the meter (2 minutes costs you 2 percent of the total fine)? But alas, no such luck for the tardy. So most people shell pay the fine and try to be more cautious in the future. However, some drivers simply can’t afford to pay and for one reason or another they get ticket #2 and then ticket #3 and when they get ticket #5, the city loses patience. Enter tow trucks and impound lots. Yep, gone are the days of the orange “boot” that a driver with five or more unpaid parking tickets might find on his wheel. Now the entire car is gone with a hefty towing fee, a daily storage fee and a $115 fee from the city thrown in for good measure. Some of these folks who don’t pay are scofflaws who ignored their tickets and have to pay the price, but others are unemployed or poor and simply can’t afford to pay. Ultimately, if the tickets aren’t paid, the car is sold at auction. So how many cars are being towed each month (and was yours one of them?) and how much money is the city making from this policy? What do you think, is this a legitimate way for the city to make money or does it go too far?

Guests:

Wendy Greuel, Los Angeles City Controller

Ginger Rutland, associate editor at the Sacramento Bee; author of the Feb. 25th Bee editorial, “How can state justify traffic fine shakedown?”

Ari Bloomekatz, transportation reporter, Los Angeles Times


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