Wheel lock a potential problem solver

"Council is amending its traffic bylaw to allow a wheel lock to be applied to vehicles with outstanding tickets."

The City of Trail has a message for all those scofflaws with unpaid parking tickets – settle your tab or you are going to be parked for longer than you were counting on.

Council is amending its traffic bylaw to allow a wheel lock to be applied to vehicles with outstanding tickets.

The new law is an effort to deal with the $150,000 in tickets that have gone unpaid in the last four years.

Council has not decided whether bylaw enforcers will now be called parking wardens or if offenders will be required to keep plugging the meter while trying to get their cars freed to avoid further tickets.

Council is reacting to a drop in payment rates in recent years to the point that those who pay their fines are now in a minority. Last year only 43 per cent of tickets were paid, which is surprisingly low for the otherwise law abiding citizens of Greater Trail but still higher than the typical turnout for municipal elections.

Reasons for not paying vary, but include: I would rather spend the five bucks on a double cappuccino and I forgot (37 times last year). The most popular reasoning is that traffic tickets are a (expletive deleted) cash grab and I’m not paying those (several expletives deleted) bureaucrats and politicians to pick my pockets. They collect enough in taxes already (cascade of expletives accompanied by a purple-red face, spittle and other signs of an impending stroke).

Back in the day when parking was at a premium, say before 1990, the argument could be made that meters were required to prevent downtown workers from hogging all the parking spots needed for shoppers.

Today, when we look at those streets of faded and broken commercials dreams, the notion is less compelling.

For the city, parking is about revenue. This year council expects to reap $220,000 from meters, $95,000 from monthly parking fees, and $42,000 in fines.

There are of course costs associated with these revenues, primarily for collecting and counting the cash and issuing and making good on tickets.

For most people, the 25 cents needed to plug a meter for half an hour is small change, and speedy souls can still do 12 minutes worth of business for a nickel. (Even the panhandlers downtown are looking for loonies or toonies rather than that kind of “spare change.”)

But digging around in your wallet or purse for change, fussing about whether your meter is about to expire as you try to enjoy a coffee with friends and, worst of all, discovering a soggy ticket on your window when you miscalculate, is another matter. (Whatever happened to that guy who used to encase the tickets he wrote in little baggies on wet days? The city should coax him out of his rocker to provide some training to the current enforcers.)

Complaining about parking meters and tickets won’t stop until the technology (and the cost of installing it) advances to the point were you can simply park your car and the meter will read your licence plate and bill you. This would do away with the need for tickets and wheel locks for miscreants, but probably won’t do away with complaining about meters since that pleasure is written into our DNA.

In the meantime, city hall could lessen the insult of having your vehicle locked up by offering some reciprocal enforcement opportunities. I suggest locking devises be available to the public for situations such as:

• snowplow drivers who make no attempt not to burry the opening to driveways

• delivery and transport drivers who insist on idling their vehicles

• guys in gigantic pick-up trucks who squeeze into angled parking spaces, requiring drivers and passengers re-entering vehicles in the adjacent spaces to turn themselves into pretzels

• drivers who park at the wrong angle in angled spaces (see gigantic trucks above)

• motorcycles with inadequate or no mufflers (perhaps nets or lassos would be better for these particular anti-social types)

• skateboarders and cyclists riding on the sidewalk (see nets and lassos)

• bylaw enforcement officers, and those who oversee them, who spend all their time writing tickets downtown and rarely if ever venture out to the rest of the city to enforce rules such as parking on top of crosswalks.

If we put our minds to it, we could turn Trail into the lock-up capital of Western Canada and have the city’s coffers so full that council might stop its endless squabbling with neighbouring communities over who should pay what for shared services.

Raymond Masleck is a retired Trail Times reporter.