Shawne Lumpkin-Latham, who works for Yale University, has found four tickets on her windshield in the last few months.
She is one of several people confused by a little-known New Haven city ordinance that prohibits drivers from parking on the same city block for more than the posted time limit on any given day, even if they leave and come back.
Recently, she found a $20 ticket on her car for parking beyond the two-hour time limit, even though she still had time on the meter.
“It pisses me off ‘cause now I have to painstakingly go back online and contest it,” she said.
Tedd Gatteau and his wife Magic, spent a day recently checking out Yale, shopping and eating during a vacation along the Connecticut shore and also received a ticket.
“It didn’t seem quite fair to us,” Tedd, a real estate broker, said. “It was a bit of a shock and gets you angry because you say, ‘How can we have a ticket? We have 18 minutes left.”
When the Gatteaus first stopped by the visitors’ center in the morning, a parking enforcement officer tagged their license plate electronically.
Even though they left for a few hours, then came back, they say they hadn’t been there for two hours total in the day before the same attendant tagged their plates again in the afternoon.
As first-time visitors to the city, they ask how they are supposed to know this rule.
“I mean, when my wife and I go into a town, we don’t go and check all the city ordinances before we park someplace,” Tedd said. “It’s not the 20 bucks. It’s the principle of the thing. There are no signs.”
Jim Travers, New Haven’s director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, said that around 70,000 people per day work in, visit and live in downtown and the rules are in place to push people to use garages and lots and keep the fewer than 3,000 on-street spots open for customers who are running in and out of businesses.
“We would not be able to list every single ordinance on a pole, so they are used as a point of reference,” Travers said. “This isn’t about issuing tickets. It’s not about collecting revenue. This is about creating the turnover so we can keep the businesses viable.”
While city officials said the parking regulations are to help businesses, several business owners said the aggressive ticketing policies are actually hurting them.
“It’s very difficult to deal with ’cause our drivers have to be constantly maintaining their meter times and locations,” said Dennis Solustri, who opened a Wings Over New Haven restaurant with delivery service in April.
Solustri, who needs to move his car every two hours to avoid getting a citation or boot, says it’s not just the employees who suffer.
“There are a lot of businesses on this road that would thrive to have their customers to have the ability to walk up and down the road and not worry about the meter expiring and getting boots,” he said.
Travers defends the system, adding there are several ways to contest these tickets, both in person and online.
“When you look at a nationwide statistic average of 10 percent of all parking tickets get appealed, and we’re at 6 percent … that tells me the ticket we’re writing is a better ticket,” he said.
Out of the 6 percent that are contested, half of them are successful, he said.
Despite some of these apparent flaws in the system, Travers argues the focus remains on public education and customer service, which Tedd Gatteau feels could be better.
“When we go home, the story we’re probably going to tell is the story of the parking and how ridiculous the policy is instead of how wonderful a day we had,” he said.