WELCOME to the latest installment of Parking Vile-ations, a regular feature of this column.
Erin Bagley has lived in Chinatown long enough to know that, on Sundays, parking is free on the 1100 block of Race Street.
So, on a recent Sunday, she was puzzled to find a $36 ticket on her car from the Philadelphia Parking Authority for an expired kiosk receipt.
Then she noticed the expired receipt on her Nissan's dashboard. But it was for parking obtained days earlier, in a different part of the city. She'd forgotten to throw the receipt away.
She figured the PPA officer had made an honest mistake (why the agent was writing parking tickets on a Sunday, though, was a mystery). So she appealed the violation to the parking Board of Administrative Adjudication.
"I thought they'd apologize for the error," says Bagley, a super-organized lawyer who brought photos of the free-parking signs to her BAA hearing.
But the hearing examiner blew her off. Not only was he "extremely rude and debasing," says Bagley, but he produced paperwork showing that the 1100 block of North 11th Street had no free parking on the day Bagley received her ticket.
Except Bagley had been ticketed for parking on Race Street, not 11th Street — which, by the way, is also dotted with signs advertising free Sunday parking.
Is a headache forming behind your eyes right now?
The examiner upheld the ticket. So Bagley requested a second appeal, scheduled for Tuesday. She no longer expects an apology. She's just hoping for a hearing examiner with a lick of sense.
John Johnson hopes for the same, but he won't bet coin on it.
He and his wife, Jade, live on the 1100 block of North 3rd Street in Northern Liberties, where a defunct fire hydrant sits uncapped, rusting and clearly out of service. Johnson says he asked a PPA officer if it was OK to park there, given the hydrant's obvious decrepitude.
"He said it was fine — they [PPA enforcers] were told not to ticket at old hydrants," recalls Johnson. So he and his wife parked their Mercury by the hydrant for two months, without incident.
Then they got nailed with a $76 ticket for blocking the damn thing. Johnson snapped photos of the decaying apparatus and appealed the ticket, presuming it would be canceled.
But the BAA hearing examiner wouldn't look at the photos. Instead, she told Johnson he needed "a letter from the city" declaring the hydrant inoperable. When Johnson asked from whom he should obtain such a letter, the examiner "refused to answer," he says, and deemed the ticket legit.
So Johnson asked for a second hearing. Then he called the Philadelphia Water Department to request a letter confirming the hydrant's death, but a spokesman said the department couldn't produce such a document. However, an employee would be dispatched to inspect the hydrant.
Says Johnson, exasperated, "How will that help me?"
The only thing that will help Johnson is if his second appeal is heard by a BAA examiner as reasonable as the one Judy Teuber dealt with on her second appeal.
First, though, Teuber had to deal with a day-ruining first examiner.
The nonsense began on the 3200 block of Summer Street in University City, where a street sign reads, "NO PARKING HERE TO CORNER." So Teuber made sure that the bumper of her car didn't encroach the area indicated as off-limits.
Later, though, she found a $76 ticket on her car for parking too close to a fire hydrant — a hydrant that sits between the posted sign and the street corner. The city, obviously, had posted the pole too close to the hydrant.
When Teuber appealed the ticket to the BAA — she brought photos — she says she was told that she "should have known" that parking is prohibited within 15 feet of a hydrant.
"In other words," says Teuber, "the city and the PPA bait you into parking where they say it's OK, then ticket you according to state law."
The BAA examiner was adamant that the violation was appropriate. So Teuber scheduled a second appeal and spent the intervening weeks snapping photos all over the city showing other signs planted less than 15 feet from hydrants.
At her return hearing, she says, the examiner was aghast at the photos.
"This is a real problem," he told Teuber as he dismissed her ticket. "We need to look into this."
Which is the only reasonable response. So why, oh why, didn't the first hearing examiner come to the same conclusion?
No wonder so many people pay their bogus parking tickets. Dealing with the BAA induces a hell of a headache.
Right behind the eyes. n