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Category Archives: Horror Stories

NBC Target 5 On Parking Ticket Beat Tonight At 10

Lisa Parker leads a Target 5 investigation to aid a driver hit with an expensive parking ticket for a Chicago city sticker violation–even though he and his vehicle don’t reside in the city.

UPDATE: Just added video of Target 5 piece to the Geek Media page.

The piece airs at 10 PM tonight on NBC 5.

Sources at NBC tell us that annoying Parking Ticket Geek may make a cameo appearance in the story.

Police Open Investigation Into Bogus Ticket Writing

Mark Geinosky shows bogus ticket paperwork

Uh-oh.

Seven Chicago police officers are under investigation for allegedly writing 24 fake parking tickets according to the Sun-Times.

All the tickets were issued to Mark Geinosky, who was spotlighted in a Chicago Tribune story about his plight back in February, 2009.

Geinosky kept on getting phantom tickets, all by mail of course, at places he’d never been and in some cases at locations which didn’t exist. Now, Geinosky contested and ultimately got all those tickets dismissed. But initially, the internal investigation into this funny business was dropped by internal investigations until the Tribune began putting on the pressure.

But nothing came out of these investigations.

Parking Meter Meltdown Caught On Camera

Writing parking tickets can be a stressful job.

Would anyone even volunteer for such a job?

Conspiracy, Intrigue, Heartbreak Pepper Parking Ticket Lawsuit

This story gets weirder and weirder.

The Tribune’s Problem Solver columnist Jon Yates has been following the case of Mark Geinosky for over a year.

He’s the gentleman that received 24 phantom parking tickets written for addresses his vehicle has never been and “coincidentally” by the same two police officers.

The internal police investigation is still going on, but is supposed to wrap up soon.

But in the meantime, Geinosky has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Chicago, and two Chicago police officers.

Still No Word On Ticketing Investigation

Jon Yates does a great job.

Yates is the Chicago Tribune’s Problem Solver columnist and spends his time trying to help out consumers who are getting screwed, get some help. It’s great consumer advocacy journalism and it’s fun to see the little guy get some justice.

A year ago Yates reported on the plight of Mark Geinosky, who received 24 Chicago parking tickets for violations at places he had never been. The curious thing was that 13 of them were written sequentially out of the same police ticket book.

Hmmmmmm.

A year later, Geinosky has contested and beat all 24 tickets, but the investigation into the story,  spurred on by Yate’s reporting is still ongoing.

Allegedly, CPD says the investigation is nearly complete.

Read Yate’s column on the subject, “A year later, no answers in parking ticket probe.”

Also, check out Yate’s “Ticket-challenging tips.”

Personally, at least on this subject, Yates might want to stick to consumer journalism.

Photo copyright Chicago Tribune 2009.

Photo by Nuccio Dinuzzo.

Halloween Driving Safety Tips

jack-o-lantern

Halloween may be the most dangerous night of the year for kids.

And not because of all the stomach aches that occur from consuming an overabundance of candy.

No,there are multiple studies that indicate more children are hit by vehicles on October 31st than any other 24 hour period of the year.

The Center for Disease Control conducted a study between 1975 and 1996 that showed deaths for young (age 5-14) pedestrians is four times higher on Halloween than any other night of the year.

More generally, a 1999 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims most collisions between vehicles and young pedestrians occur between 4-8 PM–the heart of trick or treating, and 84% of young pedestrian deaths occur mid-block when kids try to dash across the street.

So, here are a few tips when you’re out driving this Saturday.

1-Slow Down

This is the one day or night out of the year that you should drive well below the speed limit–especially in residential neighborhoods where the majority of trick or treating is done.

Look out for kids darting across the street from between parked cars.

2-Be Careful Passing Stopped Vehicles

Before you assume some bonehead is pulled over just to aggravate  you, remember, it may be a parent dropping off a bunch of costumed kids. Be extra careful that one doesn’t run in front of your vehicle while passinig.

3-Use Your Hazard Lights

If you’re the mom or dad dropping off the kids somewhere, when you pull over to let them out, throw on your hazard lights so other drivers see you pulled over and will hopefully slow down and drive more carefully.

4-Be Extra Vigilant When You See Kids

Look, kids do stupid things. They can’t help it. They don’t look both ways, they dart into the street without looking, they’re easily distracted and tonight, they’re all tweaked from excitement and from all the sugar they’ve ingested. Plus, if the kid has a mask on, they’re vision is impaired as well.

So, anytime you see a pack of kids with costumes on, open your eyes, sit up and pay attention and again…slow down.

5-Enter & Exit Driveways Carefully

With gangs of candy junkies walking the sidewalks of your neighborhood, make sure you’re especially careful when pulling in and out of driveways. Did I mention kids don’t pay attention and do stupid things?

HALLOWEEN TRAFFIC ALERT!

Try to avoid Boystown on Saturday evening. That is unless you actually want to participate in the always entertaining North Halsted Halloween Parade. Halsted from Belmont to Addision will be closed from 4 PM until 10 PM.

I’m positive you will never see more flamboyant, over the top, entertaining and creative costumes anywhere in Chicago.

Pam Zekman Strikes Again

pam-zekman

Pam has struck another blow for parking ticket justice!

Just this past week, CBS 2′s Queen of Investigative Reporting, Pam Zekman did a report on motorists contesting “bogus”  parking tickets but still being found liable for the violation.

Read Zekman’s full story, Chicagoans Frustrated By Bogus Parking Tickets, and you can watch her video report here.

The one woman’s plight spotlighted in Zekman’s piece, is found liable by a hearing officer for a meter violation even though the time on her receipt had not expired.

Zekman asks someone at the Dept. of Administrative Hearings to review the case, and the decision is reversed and the ticket dismissed.

But from Zekman’s story, I can see where the problem occurred. For some inexplicable reason, the women sent in two receipts with her letter contesting the ticket. The Administrative Law Officer (ALO) got confused and ruled against her.

That was a mistake on the woman’s part.

What purpose will a second receipt serve that’s unrelated to your story, but to just confuse matters?!?

IMPORTANT GEEK ADVICE: For God’s sake, just send the one receipt that proves you were not in violation!!!

Just keep it simple stupid. Always make sure the letter and evidence you send in when you contest a ticket by mail is logical, organized and makes sense to a 6th grader.

Have a friend or spouse read over your letter before you send it to make sure it can be readily understood.

Zekman also points out in her piece, a minor change in receipt display policy.

Originally, you were instructed to place your receipt on the dashboard on the driver’s side.

Now, the new receipts instruct to display on the dash curbside. This could mean passenger or driver’s side depending on whether you are on a one-way street or not.

My guess is that this “curbside” policy makes it safer for the PEA’s enforcing the meters, which is of course a good thing.

Zekman goes on to report, even though the instructions on the pay boxes contradict the receipt instructions currently, all the pay boxes will eventually be changed to reflect the new policy soon.

In the meantime, we are told, ticket writers are told to check the entire dashboard and even on the rearview mirror.

One final piece of advice, if you lose contesting a parking ticket, when you should have legitimately won, just give Pam Zekman a call. It’s less costly than filing an appeal in Circuit Court.

Advice For Dealing With Downtown Meter Meltdown

OK.

You parked downtown on Wednesday, tried to pay the new fangled computer Pay & Display thingy with your credit car or quarters, but all you got was a terse “Please Pay At Another Station” message on the readout.

The problem was, nearly every Pay & Display pay station was inoperable from 7:30 until nearly 5 PM. With about 250 machines out, there was no other pay stations to pay for your street parking.

It seems none of these cutting edge technology machines were issuing receipts to put on your dashboard–the only way you can prove you paid for your parking.

Even though DOR parking enforcement aides (PEA’s) , police and traffic management aides (TMA) personnel were instructed NOT to issue ticket at meters downtown in the Central Business District, you still may have received a ticket for an expired meter.

So, if you somehow received an expired meter ticket on Wednesday, May 27 while parked at a meter located downtown, (bounded by Roosevelt, Halsted, North Ave., and the lake), here’s what you need to do.

First, take a deep cleansing breath. Inhale. Exhale.

Everything is going to be fine.

The second thing to do is report the ticket and the problem with the meter to LAZ Parking and the city.

There are three numbers for you to call. We strongly suggest calling and making a report to all three if you were issued a ticket.

LAZ Parking 877-242-7901

Department of Revenue Parking Ticket Help Line 312-744-PARK (7275)

City of Chicago 311

Again, call all three numbers to report the problem.

And make sure you get a report number from at least the LAZ help line. You can use that report number in your letter contesting your ticket or at your in-person hearing.

Third, pickup tomorrow’s Tribune or Sun-Times.

Grab a scissors and clip the article in either paper documenting the parking meter meltdown of 2009.

Fourth, write a quick letter explaining that the all the meters were not working, send a copy of the article you just clipped from the paper, use the report number you got from LAZ and explain the hearing officer MUST dismiss this ticket because all the meters were inoperable.

Don’t forget to include your ticket number, along with your name and address on the letter. Slap a stamp on the envelope and slip it into your neighborhood mailbox.

Fifth, crack open an adult beverage, put your feet up, and breathe a sigh of relief.

Parking Ticket Horror Story Of The Week: Fish & Chips & Tickets

In the spirit of our Lenten obsession with fried fish, we present this delightful tale of fried fish and improperly written parking tickets.

Dear The Expired Meter:

Went out last night with the girlfriend for fish and chips at a great new
restaurant on Diversey. Its called the Firkin for those who care. I tooted
around looking for parking in the neighbourhood found a sweet spot right in
front of Walgreens, parked the car and took note of the time on my
watch 6:48PM.

So I dropped a quarter in the meter to give myself an hour and noticed that
only put me till 7:48 and I had no more quarters so I went into Walgreens
walked around aimlessly wasting time (so that 1 more quarter was all I
needed to put me past 9:00PM) and to find something to purchase and make
change to get me that other quarter for the meter. We came outside after
wasting the 12 or so minutes and getting a quarter for the meter, dropped
the quarter in and it said 2 hours remain on the meter. according to my
watch that would be 9:04 (How perfect I thought to myself)

Well we had an awesome dinner and headed back to the car only to find a
dreaded parking ticket on my car?!?! I was like WTF….opened it up and an
a*shat parking meter person ticketed me for having an expired meter at
8:59PM Thats the time on the ticket and the time it said that the meter was
expired. Are you kidding me? Who writes a ticket at 8:59PM when the meter
does not need quarters after 9:00PM??

It was a bitter ending to a great night out with my girlfriend….. I needed
to vent some frustration about this meter fairy so I found your site and
decided to write in. I dont think there is much I can do other than suck it
up and pay the fine so thanks for listening and dont forget to keep your
meters full or else you’ll be stuck paying 50 dollar tickets :(

Bryan

Mmmmmm. I love a good all you can eat fish fry.

Of course, I’m going to tell you to fight this one.

This problem is either one of two things.

1-A meter with a defective timing device. In other words, a fast meter or more likely…

2-An unethical ticket writer who thought they’d get another ticket issued before their shift ended.  My guess, by the lateness of the ticket, it wasn’t a PEA but a SERCO employee. I get an average of a complaint a week on SERCO workers writing improper tickets.

Since you can’t prove #2, you are going to have to prove #1.

Go ahead and report the meter as running fast. Call the city’s Parking Ticket Help Line at 312-744-PARK, follow the prompts and press the correct button for a fast meter.

In addition, go to the new Chicago Meters website and use their feedback form to report the problem.

Then just fight the ticket by relating the facts of the story you told here. Explain that you reported the meter malfunction and the hearing officer should be able to look this up to verify your assertion.

Just make sure you don’t mention that you were in the spot for OVER two hours, which would be a violation as well.

Zombie Parking Meters Come Back From Dead

In Washington D.C., according to the DC Examiner, out of order parking meters are coming back to life and unsuspecting motorists are getting clobbered with tickets.

It seems these dead, zombie meters in DC have been “self-correcting” themselves. A driver will pull into a metered spot, see the meter isn’t working, feel like they hit the jackpot with a free spot. But then the meter resets and comes back to life, the driver may be terrorized with a violation.

Allegedly, this process may repeat itself several times a day with these zombie meters. The result of this meter malfunctioning is increased ticket revenue but a record number (116,354) of complaints.

I think this is something we need to be on the look out for here in Chicago.

Big thanks to Grant and Mike for the tip.

Here’s the full story.

Many ‘broken’ parking meters fixing themselves

By Michael Neibauer

Two-thirds of all District parking meters reported broken turn out to be operational when a repair crew arrives on-site, a staggering statistic partly explained by the number of oft-failing meters that self-correct.

Grievance calls about the D.C.’s aging meter stock hit a record 116,354 in 2008, but that figure bears little relationship to the number of actual broken meters, D.C. Department of Transportation officials recently told a D.C. Council committee. Crews dispatched to repair a broken meter, the agency says, found the device operating as intended 67 percent of the time.

How is this possible? One explanation, according to DDOT, is that 74 percent of D.C.’s 15,453 meters are designed to self-correct, but are also “at the end of their useful life.” So a person who parks at a meter displaying a “fail” message may return an hour later to find a working meter flashing zero time and a ticket on the windshield — a process that may repeat several times a day.

DDOT has no way of checking whether a meter had failed at a given time, said John Lisle, agency spokesman, though the department does look at a meter’s breakdown and repair history when a person challenges a parking ticket.

“It was a news flash to me that we had this huge number of meters that are self-repairing,” Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham, chairman of the public works committee, said Thursday. “These are like Lazarus meters. It could account for a lot of anger we have in this city.”

DDOT is moving to replace its self-correcting meters with newer technology, including pay-by-cell phone devices, but the project has been slowed by budget cuts. By June, the agency said, 17 percent of the old meters will have been removed, but they will still account for 57 percent of the meter inventory.

Aging equipment does not alone explain the huge disparity between complaint calls and genuinely broken meters. Other reasons, according to DDOT: multiple calls about the same meter, and customers falsely reporting a broken meter to get out of a ticket.

Acting DDOT Director Gabe Klein also promised a closer examination of the work performed by Texas-based ACS State and Local Solutions, which is paid $4 million a year to keep D.C.’s 17,157 metered spaces running smoothly.

For failing to meet certain performance measures, ACS paid DDOT $278,380 in damages in 2007, but only $43,070 in 2008. The steep decline may be the result of more rigorous contract oversight and field reviews, Klein said, but it also raises questions about the work ACS is doing.

“If they’re resolving [meter complaints] for some reason before they’re going out to fix them, then that’s a problem and it could be why we’re collecting less damages,” Klein said.