Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life in cities

Scroll down to the third snippet in this column from the Lincoln Journal Star, headed "Thanks for towing us." Usually, when people come back at find their vehicle missing, the police department is where they call looking for it. One of our Service Desk employees thought this story of three vans being towed sounded familiar. We have an informal agreement with the various companies who tow for private property owners: they'll normally call us and let us know the location and the vehicle description, so when we get the stolen car report, we can tell the owner where to find it. We maintain a written log of these calls, so we can help reunite owners with their steads.

Our employee recalls the conversation, and the log shows that these vehicles were towed from the private parking lot of a downtown motel, which is posted for guest parking only. She also recalls that one of the owners who called the police department looking for the lost van related that someone at the business had told them not to park there (apparently it was more than once) and warned them that they would be towed. They just didn't think it would really happen.

I'm sorry their visit was marred. I'm sure the tow bill makes was stiff. Dadgummit. But it had nothing at all to do with the police or with the City of Lincoln. I don't know about you, but I thought this article at least implied that it was thugs in our employ who had dragged these vans away while the owners were busy stimulating the local economy.

The tale of parking woes is a recurring theme in my mailbox. I have a little sympathy for someone who overstays a metered parking spot to linger over dessert. That's why out-of-town plates can remit two freebies annually. At $10 a pop, a Lincoln parking ticket isn't exactly going to cause the children to go unshod all winter, either. I wonder what would have happened to my rental car if I just parked it in a posted private lot in downtown San Diego on my trip a couple weeks ago, or what would become of it if I had left it on a city street in a no parking zone a couple blocks from Petco Park?


JIM J said...

$10 is a lot of money for a homeless person. To us, it is nothing. This is a very good example of the "Haves" VS the "Have Nots" It is so easy to dwell in the excesses of life, when some people have nothing, we forget very easy.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, that is the problem with downtown... it is all those darn homeless people who park their cars illegally or without feeding the meter so the rest of us have no place to park.

Anonymous said...

I have a Handicap plate on my motorcycle. When I park in an empty Handicap stall with the motorcycle I usually park in the striped area so a four wheeler still has room to use the stall. To me it just doesn't make sense to take up a whole parking space when two vehicles can utilize it. Evidently a couple of the volunteers that hand out the Parking violation tickets don't see it that way. A visit or call to one of the City Attorneys clears has always cleared it up but it is irritating.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

On many military bases, a 45mph speed limit signs reads...


Their point being that if you get a ticket for doing 48 in a 45, the sign meant what it said, and you were warned. You've got to pay attention to signs, because some times, your life can depend on it. That sign might make one wear this as a hiking accessory.

Anonymous said...

The whining from out-of-towners about vehicles being towed is as predictable as the swallows at Capistrano, and one reason why I am glad that state wrestling, and now state volleyball, has moved out of Lincoln. Somehow, I doubt that the powers that be in Omaha, hotel owners or the city, will be very lenient toward people who illegally park.

If the vehicle was legally parked and in no meter violation, yeah, I share their pain. But I'm sure that most vehicles are towed/ticketed because the owner left it in an appropriate spot. And most of the time, they do this knowingly and willfully and then get all upset when they get caught.

The whiners always pitch their complaint as "Lincoln not being welcoming." My response is, "Please follow our not-very-onerous rules. If I come to Hayseed, Neb., and park my car crosswise across the street, and you tow it, are you being unwelcoming or are you just enforcing your rules?"

Steve said...

That's the trouble with rules: if they aren't enforced regularly, people get the idea that they really don't mean anything. I don't know the answer to this dilemma, because it is virtually impossible to enforce all the rules all the time. If the public at large were more involved in enforcing the rules (anything from a polite reminder to a snide remark), maybe more people would get the hint. On the other hand, I suppose a lot of people don't say anything to others because they do the same thing themselves. Who hasn't gone a little over the speed limit now and then, or threw a cigarette butt into someone's yard, or stuck their finger on wet paint just to see if it was really wet? Things like this really come down to personal ethics. If you believe something is really wrong, you don't do it regardless what everyone else does. You do what you believe is right now matter how it looks to others. If you break society's rules because they they don't fit your personal code of ethics, then you resign yourself to paying the price if you get caught, and you don't whine about it. I think the majority of people really do know right from wrong, it's just too bad more of them don't have the moral strength to act accordingly.

Grundle King said...

To echo the sentiment of another poster...indeed, your life may depend on paying close attention to a posted sign.

Bottom line is...they were warned. Ignore the warnings, bad things happen.

Anonymous said...

"We have an informal agreement with the various companies who tow for private property owners"

No, we don't. Reporting a private property tow to local law enforcement within 24 hours is required under State Statute 60-2403.

Demian said...

Can anyone tell me a city that is, as large as or larger than Lincoln that does not have parking meters?
I can't think of one...So all of a sudden when people get a ticket they blame it on the city or the public service officer. Or they blame the city for them not being able to read a simple sign that says, "Private parking", "Unauthorized vehicles not permitted", or "Do not park".
In addition, how does a homeless person afford a vehicle? Maybe they should sell the car to get them into a home...
I love it when people use ignorance as an excuse…or maybe they just can’t read…

Anonymous said...

Two follow up questions regarding 10:18 AM rules comment:
How many citations are issued annually for parking all day in one spot by continually feeding the meter?
Which parking offense is greater; letting the meter expire or plugging it all day?

Anonymous said...

Q: Which parking offense is greater; letting the meter expire or plugging it all day?


Expired Parking Meter Ticket: $10

Plugging it all day: .50 p/hour 8am - 6pm (10 hrs) $5.00

Ticket for Plugging it all day: $10

Happy Parking!

Seven Mary (BTW Gun Nut, I don't volunteer, I am paid to write tickets)

Tom Casady said...


Okay, you're a stickler, I'll be one too. They are required to notify us within 24 hours. A lot of good that'll do us when you come back from the game to find your ride gone. The towing companies have been very cooperative in notifying us promptly, despite the fact that they are under no legal obligation to do so until sometime tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Seven Mary,

There are some unpaid volunteers that hand out HandiCap parking tickets though, correct?

When I have received a regular parking ticket from an officer it always has a badge number on it. At other times I have had tickets issued with no number or name on them (just in HandiCap spots). Those have always been tossed out by one of the City Attorneys if I felt it was issued incorrectly. I am sure that since you are paid you are more concerned about doing your job correctly.

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

Being a former employee of both Capital Towing and Lincoln Land Towing where both have had contracts with the city for towing, I have had the task of towing cars from meters, lots and streets. Also towing from private lots for both companies I can tell you there is a difference.
1: If LPD, LSO, UNLPD or NSP tow your car, your pretty much hosed! You have no out, your in the wrong no matter what. Pay the bill and yes even the extra dolly fee that the driver who is on commision tacked on because you left your e-brake on.
2: If a private tow is ordered by a lot attendant or building owner, you have an out! By state statute dependant on your interpretation, the person signing for the tow is legaly responcible for the tow.

when tow employee's "police-a-lot", they are parking their trucks a block away and walking through the lot looking in your windows for a tag the building owners give dwellers so that the tow guys dont tow that car. If a tow guy finds one that has no tag, he can tow it as long as he has a signiture on his ticket. One company that still does private tows has pre-signed tickets.
Most building owners dont even know that cars are being towed at the time, they become aware when the dwellers call and complain.
tow bill: $85.00
Dolly Fee: $50.00
Driver Comm: 45%
Good drivers tow count per night 20
weak drivers tow count per night 10
Rent for City owned tow lot $45,000 per year for a five year contract.

Seems like somebody is makeing some money!

BTW: If I got a $10.00 parking ticket, how much does it caost the city to process that ticket from start ie.. the officer writing it to the end where it is actually put in the paid in full box. I bet if we take the wages of the officers actual time and the employee's handling it throughout the process, the fuel used to idle the car while writing the ticket, the wear and tear on the cruiser and ticket writing equipment that the city has now lost more money then the ticket was worth to begin with. maybe we could see a graph on this, you could use your new found skills with spreadsheets. Or maybe my post will just be lost like the last one was where actual data is given that might seem to informative.

Not calling anyone a liar, not useing any faulty data and well yes I maybe pokeing a little, no need to be real clever; just respectfull!

Scanner Listener...

Tom Casady said...

Scanner listener-

Okay, I don't get the point. My post was about the City getting hung with the "blame" for a private tow that had nothing to do with us. I suppose an open "hunting license" on a private lot could make for a profitable night for a tow company, but that has no more to do with the City than the high profit margin on a small popcorn and a medium diet Coke at the movie theater.

And yes, I suspect you are right-- it costs the City more to write parking tickets than the fine. Parking tickets aren't supposed to be a money-maker, rather a way of ensuring turnover of parking stalls and availability of those for actual customers of downtown businesses. We actually did an detailed accounting study on this back in the mid 1990's when the fine went up from $3 to $10--in order to justify the increase. I think at that time we were able to identify about $7 in direct costs to issue each parking ticket. I'm sure those costs have all gone up significantly in the ensuing decade or so.

Tom Casady said...

Oh, by the way. There seem to be some comments here to the effect of "we don't need 'em." I don't agree with those, personally. I think Lincoln needs, wants and welcomes out-of-town visitors to these events, and should do a lot to help attract and retain them.

From a parking standpoint, we need to make sure that we have an adequate supply of legal parking, or that we help organizers of events both figure out alternatives for attendees and devise a means to "get the word out" on those alternatives. We should help with that if we can.

I think Lincoln does a pretty good job of that, but the innate human yearning for The Closer Parking Spot is strong, and the beckoning of bare asphalt is sometimes irresistible in the species. If you roll the dice on a posted private lot, a bus zone, loading zone, alleyway, or in front of a driveway, you're taking your chances.

Anonymous said...

Jim J. $10 may be a lot for a homeless person, but we are talking about $10 in connection to a parking ticket...which is not a problem for a homeless person.

Anonymous said...

Get caught extending your meter...$10 fine.

Anonymous said...

To Scanner Listener

For someone who has worked at Capital Towing, and Lincolnland Towing, your facts are questionable at best. First of all, the length of the City contract is wrong, the amount of the lease to the city is wrong, the commission is wrong and the number of tows per evening is highly suspect. The tow fee is wrong, as well as the "dolly" fee. As a matter of fact, there is no additional charge on vehicles towed by the Lincoln Police Department for the use of dollies. If you are unfortunate enough to have your car towed for a parking violation, and the driver puts it up on dollies to protect your vehicle, I would say thank you for taking care of my car, as he didn't make an extra penny for doing it, and they are heavy, and a substantial amount of work for him to use.

As someone who works at Capital Towing now, and has for a number of years, I can tell you that the Lincoln Police parking enforcement officers are a great bunch of people who are just trying to do their job the best way that they can to make sure that there is plenty of parking for everyone, that it is not abused, and that the city is kept clear of junk vehicles. I'm not trying to gain "points" from anyone, I just know what a tough job they do, and getting yelled at on a daily basis for doing your job isn't fun, trust me, I know.

Anonymous said...

HEHEHE, Anonymous 9:10am said 'extending your meter' HEHEHE

Anonymous said...

Gun Nut, I would imagine that the handicap driver of the van that pulled into the legal spot might find it "irritating" that you've just occupied the area that's held open for their lift gate to open and close. If you're parking in the space painted with diagonal yellow lines, you're in violation and if the city attorney's office is voiding the citation, they're as much to blame as you are.

Tom Casady said...


I think you missed the part that Gun Nut has a handicapped plate on his motorcycle. He is entitled to the entire stall, and was simply trying to be helpful by not taking it up entirely--providing room for at least some handicapped-plated vehicles to join him.

Anonymous said...

It looks like there are lots of handicapped spots but there really aren't that many if you have a parking permit and are looking for one.