Think about coming out of a store after popping in for a few essentials and finding a ticket on your windshield for $50. In parts of Chicago this is common, and with an hourly rate of anywhere from $1.25 to more than $4, the expired parking meter fees have inspired outrage.
Mike "The Parking Ticket Geek," who chooses to remain anonymous, has spent the last two decades as a writer and journalist working in and around the city of Chicago. In that time he said he accumulated an estimated 200 to 300 parking tickets -- they represent an estimated total cost of anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000.
About five years ago, after discovering many of his tickets were being written on unsound grounds, he began fighting them. In 2008 he started TheExpiredMeter.com, the go-to Web site for fighting tickets and parking ticket information in the Chicago area. "People needed a site like this," Mike said.
Much of his ire was directed at the cost of the ticket. "I think they could get the same effect for $25," he said. "Fifty dollars is just too much."
Like Brandy Stanley predicted, Mike's site is rife with comments from people talking about how they'll simply get what they need -- from entertainment to everyday essentials -- from businesses outside the city proper. "It's just a way for [the city] to make revenue," Mike said. "The tickets were even issued by the Department of Revenue."
While most large metropolitan areas toe the parking fee line somewhere between Manchester and Chicago, fees jump considerably when safety, or a strict new law, is at hand.
In Manchester, Stanley said parking in a handicap space without a pass can net a driver a $250 ticket. Park in the same space with a forged or misused pass -- it's your mother's and you borrowed the car, for instance -- and it'll set a driver back $500. And they may face further charges, too. "We don't want people to park in those spaces, so the fees are much higher to discourage them," Stanley said.
However, finding this information can be a challenge. Manchester's Web site is relatively clear, as is New York City (where prices range from $35 to $65), but Los Angeles is a quagmire of varying rates and prices. Since fees are technically a legal penalty they're set down in the municipal code. Some states define a municipality as a city, or a county, or sometimes they vary depending on the severity of the crime. Los Angeles, made up of several smaller cities, has left the codification of parking fees to each municipal entity, creating a patchwork of fees.
In the end, if you're not planning on paying by the hour in a city, expect to shell out about $40 for a parking ticket on average, but keep an extra $40 on hand for contingencies. Or you could just feed the meter and avoid the ticket altogether.
For more information about parking tickets, the cost of car ownership and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.