The Vast Majority Of Philadelphia Parking Tickets May Be Invalid

A CBS investigation has revealed that parking tickets stemming from 85% of the parking meters in Philadelphia are invalid. Pennsylvania law requires inspectors to certify each parking meter for accuracy once every three years, but the single inspector working for Philly’s Licenses and Inspections Department, the city agency in change of certification, has visited less than 15% of all parking meters—but he has found the time to certify some meters 8 times while others go completely unchecked. As a result, thousands of parking tickets are invalid under state law.

“Has your department tested every parking meter in the city within the past three years?” I asked Deputy Commissioner Dominic Verdi. “No,” he replied. So how many have they inspected? The Deputy Commissioner wasn’t clear, saying “The exact number I don’t have in front of me.”

But we know, after 3 On Your Side reviewed the inspection reports ourselves. Out of 14,500 meters, only around 2,000 have been tested and certified for timing from 2005 through 2007, that is less than 15 percent!

Verdi blames lack of man power, L&I only has one inspector assigned to that job.

“There is no way possible for us to handle all of those meters,” said Verdi.

But when we checked, we found some meters were being checked time and time again! A meter on South 9th Street was tested at 11 a.m. one morning and approved, then hours later it was tested again, and approved again!

When I asked Verdi if the inspector was clueless, he just shrugged.

Then there is the situation we found on Ridge Avenue, a meter was tested and approved eight times last year, and it happened in other places too!

Parking tickets can be defective for a number of reasons. In New York, every ticket must have five items: the license plate number, plate type, the exact registration expiration date, vehicle make or model, and the vehicle body type.

Our town—which is full of parking ticket sticklers and has this suburban cowboy ticket inspector guy who revels in ticketing parents who dash into stores while their kids wait in the car—was caught issuing tickets that listed only the month and year of a registration’s expiration, not the exact day. As a result, the town’s tickets were invalid. The townspeople celebrated and the suburban cowboy cried. True story.

Anyway, if you live in Philadelphia and have an outstanding parking ticket, click on this link (PDF) to see if the meter was properly certified. If it wasn’t, the ticket is not legally enforceable and will be tossed out by any law-abiding judge.

If only this applied to New York City’s $150 parking tickets…

3 On Your Side: Parking Meter Investigation [CBS3]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. geel says:

    A&E Have a show about the PPA …[]

  2. Anonymous says:

    @geel: I actually really enjoy that show, and there are even some episodes where parking attendants deal with people who claim the meters are broken. Seems like a pretty common problem with the PPA.

    I bet local Philly news will keep this story going.

  3. sickofthis says:

    Interesting story, but why do TV reporters write like 4th-graders on crack? I have a journalism degree, and my professors AND my editors would have whacked me across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper (yes, I worked for a paper, where people are still expected to be able to write) if I’d used exclamation marks in my stories. And the last I heard, “clueless” was not really a word you want in a serious news story.

    Hey, Jim Donovan, that’s a news site you’re writing for, not your Myspace page.

  4. jeffjohnvol says:

    How come they can’t afford to check all those meters but they can be there to write a ticket seconds after the meter expires.

  5. jeffjohnvol says:

    There was a guy in Chattanooga that used to put extra money in meters to save people a ticket, and he would put a note on the window asking for tips. The Police arrested him and charged him with obstruction of justice. A-holes.

  6. azntg says:

    @tmccartney: Television journalism and print journalism is not exactly the same, y’know?

    If you dispute, go to the judge and fight it out. Written appeals are just about useless!

  7. mac-phisto says:

    do you even get to see a judge over a parking ticket? i remember trying to fight some invalid tickets in PA (b/c the tickets were incomplete, or in one case, there was still time on the meter), but my only recourse was to write a letter to the “parking ticket commission” or some b.s. i did & i lost every time.

    even if you get to see a judge, it would be a magistrate & they’re more interested in income than justice anyway. i never “won” a case in PA magistrate courts – 9 times out of 10, they’ll drop the charge but make you pay the fine anyway.

  8. Falconfire says:

    @jeffjohnvol: the bigger joke is the fact that just like Tolls in NJ, the fines contribute to nothing for the cities. They pay for the salary and upkeep of the people in charge of them and the money it’s self is never seen for the “improvement” they legally are meant to be for.

  9. louiedog says:

    I hate the parking nazis in Philadelphia. I studied and worked at Penn. There was a place west of campus that I used to get lunch at and on the walk there was a fire hydrant that had a PPA van parked in front of it almost every day. There was never anyone in it.

    I had a job refurbishing computers and we would have to load and unload large amounts of equipment. If we were understaffed, we’d sometimes have to leave the van double parked outside, but never for more than a couple of minutes. Twice we received tickets. Sure, it was illegal, and ordinarily I would have accepted it. However, it was a street that was barely used and twice a week the PPA would double park their van in the EXACT same spot. I think it’s where they met to ride back to their offices at the end of the day. Of course it would be double parked there, often with no one inside, for as long as 45 minutes.

  10. cbartlett says:

    I live in Philly, got a parking ticket a couple weeks ago, and paid it promptly. My meter isn’t on this list which means my ticket is invalid. If only I had procrastinated! Then I could have avoided a $26 fine by taking off from work, schlepping downtown and waiting in line for a few hours to see a judge. Somehow I think it wouldn’t be worth the time or effort.

  11. SuperJdynamite says:

    “Parking tickets can be defective for a number of reasons. In New York, every ticket must have five items: the license plate number, plate type, the exact registration expiration date, vehicle make or model, and the vehicle body type.”

    Isn’t all of this in the vehicle registration database that ticket writers have access to? It would be better if they had to somehow prove they saw the vehicle parking illegally.

  12. geel says:

    @mac-phisto: 913 Filbert Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19107 thats where they “Hold Court”

  13. MRT says:

    Ah..Yes. The PPA. I lived in Oklahoma for 11 years and got 1 parking ticket which I could have gotten waived but paid anyway. I lived in Philly for 8 months and got 16 tickets. Some of the reasons for the tickets were just bogus. I mean, I once parked in a 3 hour spot, came back before time expired and then drove all the up the street about 3 stop lights away, parked there and ended up getting a ticket anyway. When I asked the meter maid why I got the ticket, I was told it was because I was still parked on the same side of the street. I would have avoided the ticket only if I had moved to the other side of the street.

  14. rjhiggins says:

    @tmccartney: I assume you’ve watched local news. This is exactly how they report, complete with exclamation points. The stories they post on their websites are just transcriptions of what they delivered on the air.

    Consultants have clearly convinced local TV stations that their viewers have the intellect and attention span of hamsters.

  15. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @MRT: Im thinking if you got 16 tickets you are probably not the guy to make this argument.

  16. rjhiggins says:

    @MRT: That’s not unusual. Cities do that to keep people from just shuffling their cars a few times a day, defeating the purpose of freeing up parking in commercial areas.

  17. cmdr.sass says:

    In Boston, if a meter breaks, you are not allowed to park in front of it. If you do, automatic ticket. You can guess how motivated the city is to replace or repair a broken meter.

  18. TechnoDestructo says:

    Another reason I’m glad I decided not to stay. God damn that whole region should sink into the ocean.

  19. spinachdip says:

    @rjhiggins: What you don’t know about your local news COULD BE MAKING YOUR CHILDREN SICK!!! The hidden dangers of your local network affiliate – on Eyewitness News at 11!!!

    Seriously, I wish parking enforcement was more vigilants around these parts, especially assholes who block crosswalks and park in Zipcar spots.

  20. racermd says:

    @spinachdip: “What you don’t know about your local news COULD BE MAKING YOUR CHILDREN SICK!!! The hidden dangers of your local network affiliate – on Eyewitness News at 11!!!”

    Heh. Reminds me of a YDJK faux news teaser on one of their bonus audio CDs:

    “Oxygen – Gas of life or secret military death vapor? Find out tonight!”

  21. vdragonmpc says:

    Hey I got a ticket years ago in Richmond VA while dropping off a package for a Professor at VCU. I waited to park until 9am in a no parking until 9am spot. I pulled in at 9am and ran the report in and ran out total time: 31 seconds. I had a jackhole writing me a ticket. I looked at my cell phone: 9:01am! She said I parked at 8:59am and I was being ticketed for when I pulled into the spot! I actually had that reciept for several years. I paid the ticket and wrote them a nice note and in the memo line of the check I wrote: last business with city of richmond. I had not been back for very much unless I had to for work and had no choice.
    They cry and whine on the news about how no one goes to the city and why businesses cant get customers! Get a clue!

  22. pmcpa says:

    Got a ticket in Philly Last year. Meter wouldn’t take my Smart Card, Screen just read “OUT OF SERVICE.” One of my friends is a cop who was with us and said take a picture of it and I’ll vouch for you. Sure enough, 15 minutes later, I had a ticket. 3 Weeks later, when sending in the photos of the meter, they voided the ticked stating, “Serial Numbers for the meter written on the ticket and in photo didn’t match.” Photo also showed car in question in the background.

  23. sleze69 says:

    This is SO going on my blog tomorrow. WTG CBS :)

  24. m.ravian says:

    ahh….i heart my city. :)

  25. brosnan6 says:

    I f’ing hate parking tickets…the time limit enforcer (no paid parking, all free but 2/4 hr limits) in my area (Santa Clara, CA) is an absolute bitch. Here’s my revenge to the city if I ever end up paying my parking tickets…if you’re like me and have hundreds of extra checks lying around, pay your $50 ticket with 50+ checks of varying amounts of $1 or less. Somebody is going to have a lot of fun when that envelope arrives :D

  26. @Falconfire: The fines TOTALLY contribute to the local cities. Recently, I got a ticket for toll violation. Just so the judge could find against everyone, he made up law/code, announced it at the beginning of the session, and unless you could prove you were outside of the state at the time/date of the ticket, you got hit w/ at least a $25 dollar fine. There were about 20 people in court w/me, so that was at least 500+ dollars they brought in. Mine was $55 because I fought the ticket. And the biggest insult was that to appeal the judges decision would cost me TO START over $400. All that money goes into the pocket of the local jurisdiction.

  27. bonzombiekitty says:

    @jeffjohnvol: Meter inspection is handled by L&I, which is a separate organization from the Parking Authority (which I think is semi-private rather than fully public like L&I), so you can’t really blame the PPA for the meters not being tested. L&I generally has it’s own set of problems in Philly so I’m not surprised it’s not auditing the meters correctly.

    On that note, I really dislike the PPA. They gave me a ticket once for having an expired emissions sticker. Except my car was not registered in PA, so they can’t really get me for PA laws regarding emissions in the first place, and the state my car was registered in had no emissions testing for three years while the system got overhauled, and that’s why the sticker was expired. I had to go to the parking court to get it cleared up.

  28. RvLeshrac says:


    No, you CAN blame the PPA for the meters not being inspected, because the government mandate is for them to be inspected. If they aren’t inspected, the government agency in charge of them is responsible for ensuring that they are summarily inspected.

  29. wikkit says:

    I think my Philly story trumps all.

    I got a parking ticket in Philly last year………but was never in Philly!!

    While living in NY state with NY vehicle registrations, I got a parking ticket from the city of Philadelphia for a PA license plate that had once been registered to me but had since been surrendered (I confirmed this with the DMV). The part that cracked me up was when they argued with the DMV records!

  30. bonzombiekitty says:

    @RvLeshrac: I disagree. If, by agreement with the city, PPA isn’t the one that’s supposed to be inspecting the meters then you can’t really blame them if they’re operating on the assumption that L&I is inspecting them and reporting the broken ones like it should be. The PPA is a funky organization, from my understanding it’s not really a government organization – I believe it’s a semi-private org with a contract with the city to enforce parking. So I’m not sure that you can really say they are fully in “charge” of the meters.

  31. Falconfire says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: Nope, not for big cites they don’t. Enforcement alone costs millions of dollars in salary’s and benefits, not to mention upkeep (or lack there of in this case) of meters and replacement as well as just sorting the change which even with machines is a multi-man job each one making 20-30k base salary.

    Even for smaller communities its much cheaper and more cost effective to enforce parking rules than it is to charge people to park.

    Yes they make money, I never claimed they didnt. But it COSTS them the same if not more to enforce it, thus negating any money they would have made. This is EXACTLY the same reason the NJ tolls where not gotten rid of when they where seriously thinking about it a few years back. Despite the fact the state government PROVED that the tolls where only going to pay the toll workers and EZ-Pass once you subtracted enforcement costs from revenue, because of the toll workers union, they couldn’t actually get RID of the tolls.

  32. sketchy says:

    @tmccartney: …why do TV reporters write like 4th-graders on crack? I have a journalism degree, and my professors AND my editors would have whacked me across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper…

    They should whack you across the nose for using a cliched phrase such as ‘on crack’.

  33. HOP says:

    when i was a police in balto city many moons ago, the city of balto got 10% of each traffic sumons isued….the state of md. got the rest… may have changed now, i really don’t know…..or care…..

  34. falcon – There is another reason for tolls and parking costs. It is to discourage overuse and control the amount of people parking or driving. It is supposed to be a small deterrent and an incentive to those NOT driving. Driving creates congestion and hurts a city.

  35. SacraBos says:

    I had this happen. I was late to get back to my car, and it had a ticket. But after looking at the time the ticket was issued, I could tell the meter expired too soon. Took it to court and won.

  36. SacraBos says:

    @sketchy: Most writers write to their audience. Style and vocabulary differ accordingly from childrens books to scientific jounrals. Obviously, TV reporters are reporting the news to 4th graders on crack.

  37. Witera33it says:

    It’s no surprise really. Bureaucracy in this city is retarded and corrupt. I’ve watched PPA stalk meters, write tickets for unexpired meters, i’ve also seen them be totally decent to people and occasionally compassionate. I got rid of my car after 6 months of living in Philly, though. Parking here is ridiculous. It doesn’t help that people NEED to have HUGE cars to drive in one of the oldest cities in the country. I’m thrilled, however, to be noticing a growing number of car share parking spots all over the city. Many people I talk to are selling their cars and jumping on that bandwagon. There need to be less cars in a city like this.

  38. sleze69 says:

    @Witera33it: I shall quote Frank Herbert:

    Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept?

  39. Triborough says:

    The report was from the CBS owned station in Philadelphia, not from the network itself. You should clarify that.

  40. arkitect75 says:

    I think that Parking Wars (the show on A&E about the PPA) is pretty funny, and yes a lot of the offenders on the show do deserve tickets.

    Here in the Coral Gables/South Miami areas, the ticket enforcers are hardcore. They will circle the same block three times, when people park, just to get them. In some areas of the city, they’ve tried to make paying for meters “easier” (and eliminate piggy backing). Instead of standard coin meters, you have the solar powered meter machines that you put in your cash/CC, get your parking receipt, and display it in the window. If I’ve got time still on my receipt, I’ll give it to someone who’s pulling in as I’m leaving. In downtown Miami, some homeless guys will ask for your ticket as you leave, and then attempt to sell it to new people coming in to park. A friend tried to give his ticket to another person as he was leaving one night near the AA Arena, and a homeless guy started yelling at him about giving away the ticket and costing him business.

  41. arkitect75 says:

    I used to park in a restricted time residential area, once the restrictions were lifted. One day, I came out to find a ticket, issued during the non restricted time. So, I took a picture of the parking sign that happened to be right in front of my car and used that to dispute the ticket (one that you had to mail in to dispute). i got a response from some judge that my dispute was denied, and it gave no reason. I knew that I was in the right, so I contacted the parking authority, and spoke to the manager. she informed me that the officer that issued the ticket was new, didn’t understand the sign, and decided to “be safe” and ticket me. I sent her the pictures and she agreed that it was a mistake and canceled the ticket. so it pays to be persistent.