Sunday, April 16, 2017

Responses to my parking meter column in Vancouver Courier

Since writing my Vancouver Courier column about my trials and tribulations with a City of Vancouver parking meter, I have received a number of responses from readers wanting to share their own experiences, as well as one who had some sage advice for me. Here's just some of what I heard:

Thanks for your courier opinion piece.
One things that irks me regularly is meter parking out at UBC. I go out there every other month or so to buy printer toner at Staples.
The meter requires 25 cents per 5 minutes. When you add another quarter it adds up to 9 minutes and another quarter gets you 13 minutes. They rip you off by one minute for every extra quarter!


Here mare some others.


Write about the parking meter bandit of Ash St. I've seen the same individual farming the meters there while drivers get ticket after ticket. He jams the meter, waits for people to put coins in thinking they've paid, then comes and collects the money for himself. I've reported this to police, seen him get arrested, and then he was back the next day on his bike doing the exact same thing. I wonder how many tickets drivers have had there because of this guy and the inability of police and the city to do anything about it. Data shows this is happening in an area where bylaw officers are also writing the most tickets. 8th and Ash.


Re your Courier column on April 13, I found yesterday that the parking meters in the 10 & Sasamat area had all been changed to indicate $1 for an hour.  Previously they indicated partial hour rates:  10 cents for 6 minutes, 25 cents for 15 minutes.  So I put in 25 cents and sure enough, got 15 minutes; the partial/hour rates were still in effect.  

I tried the same thing at a parking meter on West Boulevard where the posted rate was $2 for an hour.  I put in $1 and got 40 minutes.  Admitted it wasn’t half of the posted rate, which it should have been, but at least I didn’t have to pay the full shot.  So if one only wants a short-term stay, you can in fact pay less than the posted rate.  A lot of people, like me, will assume that you cannot pay less than the posted rate. 

Also, I have a beef with the City about parking meters which are Pay-By-Phone.  For the large number of us who don’t have this facility, these parking slots are unavailable even though vacant.  I am going to write to the City  and suggest that all meters should still accept coins (lotsa luck). Grrrr.

I encountered a malfunctioning pay-by-phone spot, and the city cancelled the ticket! The short version of the story is that pay-by-phone hadn't been updated to resume allowing parking after construction on the street had been completed, and so the app refused to allow my parking/payment. I took a screen capture of the error and after I'd gotten the ticket I called the city, e-mailed them the screen capture, they verified the error with pay-by-phone, and the ticket was canceled. A lot of steps, but worth it.

I carry a sledge hammer and my camera phone. If the meter doesn't actually work then it should look like it doesn't work.

And finally this one:

Hello Mr. Geller, I enjoy your contributions to the Courier and always agree with your expressed opinions. However....

Here comes the however.
If one can afford to purchase a car, maintain it and  licence it then one can afford to pay for parkingParking should be considered part of the car owning responsibility package.
Driving around around trying to find a free spot is irresponsible.  That behaviour contributes to air pollution, global warming and traffic congestion.
Pay for the parking and be happy you are able to do so.
There are more important battles to be fought.


I know she's right. But as I said at the beginning of my column, I am very irrational when it comes to parking. And I know I'm not alone!

Parking meters nickel and dime Vancouver Opinion Vancouver Courier April 13, 2017

     I'm the first to admit it. I become very irrational when it comes to paid parking.
I will drive around a block multiple times in the hope of finding a free parking spot before paying.
If I must park at a meter, I seek out one with a flashing green light, meaning there’s still some time left.
     Knowing this, you might appreciate why I became quite perturbed at 6:05 p.m. on March 30th when I discovered a City of Vancouver parking meter on West 4th Avenue that didn’t know the time.
     Why is it important that a parking meter knows the time? Because an increasing number of meters around Vancouver now charge different rates for different times of day or week. This meter charged $3 per hour before 6 p.m. and $2 per hour after 6.
     Before I left my car for a dinner engagement, I decided to listen to the 6 p.m. CBC news. After a few minutes, I paid to park.
      Normally, I use the Pay-by-Phone app. However, since I had many coins in my pocket I inserted $2, only to discover this got me 40 minutes, not 60 minutes as advertised. I was upset.
I was about to add another $2 but decided instead to photograph the parking meter error and tweet it out with the caption “this meter does not know how to tell the time.” 
      I told my dinner guest about my frustration with a parking meter, adding that if I got a ticket I would contest it. I got a ticket.
      This prompted a Facebook post later that evening describing the incident and seeking advice on whether to contest the ticket. Most of my Facebook friends urged me to fight it.
     CL wrote: “Yes — contest it. I've seen (parking attendants) standing next to meters waiting for them to hit "0" as the car owner is walking back towards the car...and they then race to give a ticket just as the owner arrives. They are ruthless. This is no longer the nice, kind city that it used to be.”
     CR wrote: “How about broken meters? When one swallowed my tooney and gave me nothing in return, I called and was told “that's why you should use your phone app"! Hmm. Double paid. Not good.”
    DC had extensive, thoughtful comments, including: “Parking law is, in my experience, profoundly perverse….the offense is not failing to pay, it’s being parked while the meter is expired. Thus, if the meter is broken or functioning improperly, you are still guilty if it shows expired while you’re parked there.”
     OJ wrote: “If you can, take one for the team! It's a pain ... but these and other meter problems never get solved because we don't have the time!”
     A former city finance official suggested the following: “Just phone 311 and tell them you want to talk to parking enforcement about the ticket. I bet they forgive it.”
     I took his advice and spoke to a considerate individual who took down all the details and promised to have someone check the meter and get back to me in writing. She subsequently phoned with bad news. I had to pay.
     The meter was determined to be in working order. When I asked to see a copy of the report to determine whether they had checked the clock, I was told I would have to file a Freedom of Information [FOI] request.
     Like most Vancouver residents, I do not want to take even more time to contest this ticket. Furthermore, if you read the fine print on the back of the ticket, if the dispute is unsuccessful, instead of a $42 fine you must pay the non-discounted penalty plus a $25 fee. That’s $95.
     As this experience demonstrates, parking meters are not infallible. As more parking meter rates are based on time of day and week, I hope the city ensures that other parkers are treated more equitably.
     In the meantime, if you encounter a meter that can’t tell the time or is jammed, just phone 311. I will too.
Have you had an experience with a Vancouver parking meter that should be told? If so, write to me and I’ll share the best in a future column.

geller@sfu.ca
- See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/opinion/parking-meters-nickel-and-dime-vancouver-1.14844265#sthash.qPGz1OEr.dpuf
I'm the first to admit it. I become very irrational when it comes to paid parking.
I will drive around a block multiple times in the hope of finding a free parking spot before paying.
If I must park at a meter, I seek out one with a flashing green light, meaning there’s still some time left.
Knowing this, you might appreciate why I became quite perturbed at 6:05 p.m. on March 30th when I discovered a City of Vancouver parking meter on West 4th Avenue that didn’t know the time.
Why is it important that a parking meter knows the time? Because an increasing number of meters around Vancouver now charge different rates for different times of day or week.
This meter charged $3 per hour before 6 p.m. and $2 per hour after 6.
Before I left my car for a dinner engagement, I decided to listen to the 6 p.m. CBC news. After a few minutes, I paid to park.
Normally, I use the Pay-by-Phone app. However, since I had many coins in my pocket I inserted $2, only to discover this got me 40 minutes, not 60 minutes as advertised. I was upset.
I was about to add another $2 but decided instead to photograph the parking meter error and tweet it out with the caption “this meter does not know how to tell the time.”
I told my dinner guest about my frustration with a parking meter, adding that if I got a ticket I would contest it. I got a ticket.
This prompted a Facebook post later that evening describing the incident and seeking advice on whether to contest the ticket. Most of my Facebook friends urged me to fight it.
CL wrote: “Yes — contest it. I've seen (parking attendants) standing next to meters waiting for them to hit "0" as the car owner is walking back towards the car...and they then race to give a ticket just as the owner arrives. They are ruthless. This is no longer the nice, kind city that it used to be.”
CR wrote: “How about broken meters? When one swallowed my tooney and gave me nothing in return, I called and was told “that's why you should use your phone app"! Hmm. Double paid. Not good.”
DC had extensive, thoughtful comments, including: “Parking law is, in my experience, profoundly perverse….the offense is not failing to pay, it’s being parked while the meter is expired. Thus, if the meter is broken or functioning improperly, you are still guilty if it shows expired while you’re parked there.”
OJ wrote: “If you can, take one for the team! It's a pain ... but these and other meter problems never get solved because we don't have the time!”
A former city finance official suggested the following: “Just phone 311 and tell them you want to talk to parking enforcement about the ticket. I bet they forgive it.”
I took his advice and spoke to a considerate individual who took down all the details and promised to have someone check the meter and get back to me in writing. She subsequently phoned with bad news. I had to pay.
The meter was determined to be in working order. When I asked to see a copy of the report to determine whether they had checked the clock, I was told I would have to file a Freedom of Information [FOI] request.
Like most Vancouver residents, I do not want to take even more time to contest this ticket. Furthermore, if you read the fine print on the back of the ticket, if the dispute is unsuccessful, instead of a $42 fine you must pay the non-discounted penalty plus a $25 fee. That’s $95.
As this experience demonstrates, parking meters are not infallible. As more parking meter rates are based on time of day and week, I hope the city ensures that other parkers are treated more equitably.
In the meantime, if you encounter a meter that can’t tell the time or is jammed, just phone 311. I will too.
Have you had an experience with a Vancouver parking meter that should be told? If so, write to me and I’ll share the best in a future column.
geller@sfu.ca
@michaelgeller
- See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/opinion/parking-meters-nickel-and-dime-vancouver-1.14844265#sthash.qPGz1OEr.dpuf

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Opinion: What were they thinking? Vancouver Courier March 28, 2017


Columnist Michael Geller isn't fond of Douglas Coupland's hollow tree installation on a small plaza at Cambie and Marine Drive.

Nominations for questionable City of Vancouver decisions

As I travel around the city, I often come across things that cause me to scratch my bald head and question “What were they thinking?”

Occasionally, I post comments on social media or write a blogpost to see if I’m the only one who notices or cares.

Increasingly, I am not alone questioning some of the things going on. This prompted me to suggest on Facebook that someone should launch a What Were They Thinking awards program, which one Facebook follower suggested be called the WTFWTT awards.To get the ball rolling, here are some initial nominees:

Point Grey Road sidewalk

Many were disturbed by the initial council decision to turn a portion of Point Grey Road into a gated community. While some nearby residents were pleased, others questioned the benefits, especially given the considerable costs and other more pressing city needs. However, the latest construction activities seem to have almost everybody upset.

As respected UBC landscape architect Patrick Condon recently noted, “the clear-cutting of mature trees and planting to create a wider concrete sidewalk demonstrates the city seems incapable of anything approaching a light touch when it comes to their Greenest City agenda.”
tree stumps

I would add that it’s bordering on the insane to incur such costs to install an ugly plain concrete sidewalk and expensive new power poles, reminiscent of developing nations. This is not going to be a pleasant addition to Vancouver’s waterfront walkway system. What were they thinking?

Burrard Bridge

The upgrading of the Burrard Bridge seems to have been underway for an excessive amount of time. While the need to carry out structural improvements was understood, the sequencing of work and certain design decisions seem most questionable.

I like landscaped medians in roads. I was therefore pleased when, after installing an asphalt pavement at the south end of the bridge, the city dug it up to install a planter. Then it sat vacant for a season, gathering weeds. Then it was planted and soon overrun by more weeds.

Now a portion of the landscaped median has been paved over to accommodate temporary lane realignments. I can’t help but wonder when there will be a serious accident as drivers struggle to adjust to these changes, not to mention the drifting orange traffic cones. What were they thinking?

Marine Drive bicycle lanes

I was pleased when I heard that bicycle lanes would be installed along both sides of Marine Drive westward from Granville Street. However, when the road finally opened, I questioned the decision to install flimsy white plastic posts into the asphalt to protect cyclists on turns.

Not surprisingly, many of these posts were soon knocked over, leaving metal brackets in the asphalt, and many remaining posts leaning at odd angles. It’s most unsightly.

Now, large metal pipes have appeared alongside portions of the street. Please don’t tell me city workers are going to again tear up Marine Drive. If so, what were they thinking?

Public art around Vancouver

I have had concerns with Vancouver’s Public Art Program ever since I was told I could not hire Susan Point to create a two-block sculpture and fountain along Georgia Street in front of the Bayshore project. Why? The city’s program manager thought there was already too much native art in the city. Instead, his art selection process came up with giant, garish, gold-coloured sand buckets with water pouring out the top. My client had to pay the city a lot of money to buy his way out of that one.

I recently upset Facebook followers by questioning another garish, gold art installation — Douglas Coupland’s Golden Tree on a small plaza at Cambie and Marine. I also questioned the decision to install bright white cones of salt near the Olympic Village, which quickly attracted graffiti and debris.
Michael Geller says it didn't take long for these cones of salt to attract graffiti and debris aroun

While I am at it, I also dislike the condom sculpture (they are supposed to be condoms, aren’t they?) at Davie and Howe.(Correction: Drake and Howe).

This is supposed to be a public art program. Why can’t the process select art installations that most of the public might enjoy? 

Are there projects around the city that have you questioning what were they thinking? If so, write and tell me about them. I’ll include them in future columns.

geller@sfu.ca
- See more at: http://www.vancourier.com/opinion/what-were-they-thinking-1.13198518#sthash.86OTvFhv.dpuf