Here are some of the top tricks and tips for avoiding getting a parking ticket in the City of Vancouver.
Parking Secret No. 0. Be nice to the Parking Guy You never know when they’ll let you off.
Parking Secret No. 1. If there’s one place you should make sure to plug the meter, it’s in the 800-block of Hornby, right in front of the Law Courts. That’s because parking officers are testifying in traffic court and often write a few tickets on their way in or out. The Starbucks at Helmcken and Howe is also a danger zone: it’s right across the street from parking headquarters and where many parking officers go for coffee. I lived upstairs from this Starbucks for 5 years and watched the Yellow Jacket gang ticket every car even when they’re off shift.
Parking Secret No. 2. If you’re running into Future Shop at Broadway and Pine and figure you’re safe in a permit spot for a minute or two, think again. More people receive permit-related tickets in the 2500-block of Pine than anywhere else. That’s because a resident calls parking enforcement about three times a day to complain about illegal parkers. Other blocks under the constant watch of irate residents include the 2400 blocks of Bayswater and Trutch and the residential streets around Langara College.
Parking Secret No. 3. For parking-meter tickets only, every driver in the city is entitled to one “courtesy cancellation.” If you call 604-257-8732, and ask nicely, the city will usually waive your fine. Each licence plate gets only one free pass over the life of the vehicle.
Parking Secret No. 4. The worst day of the week to park illegally is Wednesday. Parking officers work a nine-day fortnight and the one day virtually all of them are on shift is Wednesday. Not surprisingly, it’s also the day the most tickets are issued: 20 per cent more tickets, in fact, than on a typical Monday.
Parking Secret No. 5. The riskiest time of day to park illegally is in the afternoon, between noon and 4:30 p.m., since that’s when the various parking shifts overlap. However, there is a slight dip in ticket-writing between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., when many parking officers are on their lunch breaks.
Parking Secret No. 6. As long as you’re not blocking a rush-hour route, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. is “Happy Hour” for illegal parkers. Starting at 3:05 p.m. every weekday, parking officers from all over the city converge on routes such as Robson, Davie and Broadway to hand out no-stopping tickets and order vehicles towed away. As a result, enforcement of all other offences — such as expired meters and permit zones — drops off considerably for about an hour.
Parking Secret No. 7. Enjoy your Sunday brunch without fear of a parking ticket. The first shift of parking officers doesn’t start on Sundays until 11:30 a.m., much later than on other days. There’s a proposal before city council to move the start time to 8:30 a.m. but, for now, your chances of getting a ticket before noon on Sunday are slim.
Parking Secret No. 8. Night owls can rest easy. The first shift of parking officers starts at 6:15 a.m. and the last clocks off at 10:30 p.m. There are some exceptions for special events, but for the most part there is little to no parking enforcement overnight. However, this could change: a report has gone to city council proposing a new shift that would run until 2 a.m.
Parking Secret No. 9. A five-minute grace period exists in most no-parking areas, such as permit zones and commercial loading areas, so you’re allowed to stop briefly to pick someone up or drop them off. That also means a parking officer has to observe you sitting in such a spot for at least five minutes before writing you a ticket. Be warned, though: no such grace period exists for areas where you’re not allowed to stop at all — like rush-hour routes or bus zones — or for spots with a meter.
Parking Secret No. 10. All parking meters are not created equal. Downtown, where there are dedicated meter-checking foot patrols, the typical meter is usually checked by a parking officer at least once every two hours. In contrast, the meters along Commercial Drive and in Kerrisdale don’t have dedicated foot patrols and so may be checked as little as once a day.
Parking Secret No. 11. If you’re going to park illegally, don’t put on your four-way flashers. It provides no legal protection and just draws attention to your offence. “What it says to me is: I know it’s illegal, but I’m only doing it for awhile,” said parking officer Sherry Wevill.
Parking Secret No. 12. Just because there’s no chalk on your tires doesn’t mean you’re necessarily safe in a two-hour parking spot. Instead of chalking, some parking officers log the position of each car’s tire air valve in their hand-held computers. If the position hasn’t changed by the time they come back around, they know your car hasn’t moved. Other officers put a small stone on top of each tire or check tailpipes for signs of condensation.
Parking Secret No. 13. When the time runs out on your parking meter, you always get a two-minute “grace period”, regardless of whether you paid for four minutes or an hour. During that grace period, the meter will display a solid “000” instead of a flashing “0000” and you will not receive a ticket. However, the grace period also means if you tell an officer the meter just ran out, they know if you’re lying.
Parking Secret No. 14. You can get a ticket even if your meter is fully paid. Along several rush-hour routes, such as Robson, a meter will accept your change even though you’re not allowed to park there between 3 and 6 p.m. Stickers on each meter warn parkers of this fact, but dozens of paid-up parkers are still ticketed and towed every weekday.
Parking Secret No. 15. There are no parking enforcement officers working on either Christmas or New Year’s Day. Vancouver police will respond to complaints about serious safety violations, but your chances of getting a ticket for anything else on those two days are virtually zero.