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The NYPD Was Ticketing Legally Parked Cars; Open Data Put an End to It (iquantny.tumblr.com)
868 points by danso on May 11, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments

For people who skip straight to the comments: I couldn't fit it into the title, but the other half of the OP's title is that the author confronted the NYPD with his data analysis and they thanked him and spoke positively about the effect of open data:

> “Mr. Wellington’s analysis identified errors the department made in issuing parking summonses. It appears to be a misunderstanding by officers on patrol of a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules. We appreciate Mr. Wellington bringing this anomaly to our attention...

> Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly.”*

Sure, it's easy to pay lip service to open data and transparency...but I've found for the most part that bureaucracies are generally OK with open data after it's been ingrained in their culture (which is why it is so amazingly easy to get data from Florida -- they have an IT system that is optimized to handle it -- the employees don't mind fulfilling the requests since it's no skin off their back).

Bloomberg got the ball rolling, and hopefully the momentum continues...I'd be happy with NYC agencies tolerating open data as a status quo...Looking forward to the day when bureaucrats and citizens can get to the point where transparency isn't seen as a zero-sum game.

It's also substantial that this was all done from a database of tickets that the NYPD made available. It's easy to say "Oh sure, they talk a good game after the fact", but the decision to make the data publicly available in the first place seems like a serious show of good faith.

The fact that they thanked him means exactly zero if they don't give back the money that they got from people who were lawfully parked, but still got erroneously fined by the department for reasons that directly contradict existing law.

It is easy to give verbal apologies (especially using hedging words like “....recent, abstruse change in the parking rules.” If the police are so confused by abstruse changes in the parking rules, how are normal people supposed to understand and obey them?). Monetary ones are more difficult to come by.

[EDIT: To make it clear, I'm not saying the work of 'iquantny hasn't resulted in positive change. It obviously has. Just that the department's response is, in my opinion, not positive enough.]

I respectfully disagree.

An error was identified, communicated, and acted upon as a result of open data. Specifically, it became known that due to inadequate training practices patrol officers were unawares of the change whereas parking enforcement were the only ones trained and therefore were not making the same mistake:

> "When the rule changed in 2009 to allow for certain pedestrian ramps to be blocked by parked vehicles, the department focused training on traffic agents, who write the majority of summonses."

> "Yet, the majority of summonses written for this code violation were written by police officers. As a result, the department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command."

So the issue isn't that police were confused so much as their training wasn't updated because of a system failure (training only traffic agents and not patrol officers).

Further they are taking action to monitor the open data themselves to detect future anomalies themselves:

> "Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly."

This is a great step forward regardless of whether or not en-mass refund occur.

To me, a refund would be icing on the cake. And perhaps one will happen (hopefully) this post was published today (May 11, 2016) after all.

As an aside, there is also something to be said about the fact citizens should be aware of their own rights and laws. Any citizen could and should have contested wrongly issued tickets.

And I respectfully disagree with you.

Money has been taken from citizens by the authorities in an unlawful manner. Money has to be given back. I don't know what more to say about this matter. If I steal 200$ out of your pocket and you find out, my feeling is you would want your money back, not an apology and my heartfelt assurance that it won't happen again...

Wow I can't believe all the people disagreeing with you.

They unlawfully issued tickets, were made aware that they were unlawful, and don't want to refund the money ???

I must be taking crazy pills for people to think this is ok.

And further, using the excuse "it would cost more to refund than was collected" as the reason to not make right with the people wronged. How much is ticket in NYC? I'm betting it stings, and like here in Philadelphia, the cost of contesting a ticket (in lost wages, navigating a system very much meant to discourage you from contesting a ticket), especially for blue-collar workers, is less affordable than paying the ticket.

This is the NYPD - the most police-state police force in the country, responsible for such hits as Stop-And-Frisk, Eric Garner, and many other human rights abuses.[0]

You think they'd be so lenient with you if you offered them an apology?

Quick reminder about the title of the article - "The NYPD Was Systematically Ticketing Legally Parked Cars for Millions of Dollars a Year." Systematically.

[0] http://gothamist.com/2012/07/25/report_nypd_handling_of_occu...

Do people think it's ok, or are we just at a point where "at least the theft stopped" is pretty much the most we expect?

I can absolutely believe that this happened by accident (it is a pretty subtle rule change), but that doesn't justify pocketing all of the cash it produced.

What's the statute of limitations for such things in NY?

The very point of the statute of limitations is to limit how much of the present is spent digging up the past.

Hearings are not granted for tickets issued over 1 year ago.[0]

The owner must submit a Request for Hearing after Judgment form to fight the ticket. If the request for hearing after judgment is granted, the judge will hear the defense to the parking ticket. If the request is not granted, no hearing will be held and the total fine, interest, and penalties will be due.

[0]: http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/1652/fight-a-parki...

I think a better analogy would be income taxes. If I make a mistake that causes the government to give me more money than I'm due they take it back whether I want to give it back or not. It should be the same when the government makes a mistake that causes me to give it more money than it's due.

Your analogy doesn't really work because while there is all this outrage by some people here, I haven't actually seen evidence so far of the NYPD refusing to issue refunds.

The thing is, there doesn't seem to be a cheap and automatic way to (a) accurately filter out all incorrect tickets and (b) track the people down who were wrongfully ticketed. (Yes, analyzing the thousands of different parking spots where tickets were issued for their legality is an expensive process - and there's bound to be a very long tail.) So it seems pretty clear to me that attempting a proactive refund would be an expensive waste of money.

Yes, the police are responsible for doing their job right, and that's what they're doing now. It would sure feel great to punish some scapegoat in hindsight, but this is a classic case where it's difficult to pin the blame - remember, it was a systemic problem where one (small) subgroup of officers failed to be properly trained after a rules change.

People who have been wrongfully ticketed should contest the ticket, it's as simple as that.

It's not difficult to pinpoint blame and there is no scapegoat.

"Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct seems to have the most cars wrongly ticketed, bringing in over $100,000 in fines a year. The 77th, also in Brooklyn, comes in second:"

That's not an oversight. That's a systematic abuse of the public trust. How about people that didn't know they were wrongfully ticketed and fined? How about people that couldn't take the time off to dispute the ticket? Its extortionate.

I hope the next time you are on the wrong side of a municipal fine you remember you remember your glib words. Its as simple as that.

that is one conclusion , other is that those two have the most parking spots affected by the change of the law so proportionally they made more mistakes

Way to miss the point. Different precincts having different proportions is not the issue.

Anyone that lives in NYC is well aware that, no matter what the commish says, the officers on the ground do whatever they think they can get away with. It's not at all surprising to learn that intentionally wrongful parking tickets are a huge source of revenue for the PD.

>analyzing the thousands of different parking spots where tickets were issued for their legality is an expensive process

With data about exact location of where each ticket was issued, it wouldn't have to be expensive.

It can be argued that money was freely given by people who were issued tickets because they didn't want to deal with challenging the ticket in court.

I've done the same (got an open container ticket on the boardwalk in coney island, where they sell beer. the cop said you have to drink it within 20ft of the establishment that sold it). Admittedly, in that particular case they dismissed the fine and sent me my check back.

But can you prove the money was innocent and lawfully acquired?

I am afraid it would cost $2M to try to pay back $1.7M... i think they should first spend their time and $$ in making sure they fix the issues going forward.

Find the money somewhere. Take it out of the police chief's pay for all I care. In fact, I don't think just returning the money is enough. The money should be returned with interest as if it were put into a municipal bond.

The worst part is that every time this happens, the taxpayers are on the hook. I think nothing will change as long as wrong decisions doesn't hurt the decision-makers. I don't know how to implement this but something has to give. When in doubt, officers should err on the side of not writing tickets.

Unrelated but our police officers need stronger protection from the insanity of things like quotas. Make it immensely profitable for an officer to whistleblow situations where they are required to collect $n in fines or write n tickets. Make it a federal law and take that money ($10MM per incidence per officer sounds like a good start, the point is it has to be high enough that there won't be peer pressure for an officer to "get in line") from the department. If they can't pay, too bad. The municipality/county doesn't deserve a police force.

If I steal $200 worth of booze from the store they will spend thousands if not tens of thousand to prosecute me. Using this logic they should just take my apology and let me go with the booze.

> I am afraid it would cost $2M to try to pay back $1.7M

How much did it cost them to issue tickets and collect that $1.7 million? Do they use the same logic while issuing tickets and collecting fines?

Nobody cares how much more it costs you to do the right thing after the fact. Example paying a parking meter.

I wonder if they would accept this excuse after I "forgot" to pay a parking meter.

I'd likely cost more to refund the money than the value of it - and honestly, if you got a parking ticket in error, its up to you to contest it - its not like the tickets were written in bad faith.

> its not like the tickets were written in bad faith.

There's been a huge proliferation of laws in the last ~20 years or so which are categorized as Strict Liability. Taxes have always been like this, but lately a lot of new laws have said "follow this or else" full stop.

Since normal everyday citizens are being held to strict liability every day, I see no reason to be so forgiving of officers. I'm not suggesting that they're bad people, or deserve to go to jail for making an honest mistake. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander and if normal folks are being punished this way, so should law enforcement, politicians, etc. Nobody should be exempt, the law is the law.


Can't up vote this enough."Ignorance of the law is not an excuse" is played out on the citizens of NYC (and elsewhere) on the daily. Don't let authority off so easy. Hold those that would hold you liable, liable.

> Ignorance of the law is not an excuse

Supreme Court says otherwise, if you're a cop.


While that's an interesting (and somewhat concerning) result, it doesn't go as far as this case.

Heien was about meeting 4th Amendment probable cause standards to prosecute a different crime. This is about ticketing people over the non-criminal act out of ignorance. It's like if Heien had been fined over the brake lights even though they were legal.

As is, the NYC statue of limitations will strip most of these people of the right to contest tickets that were given for non-crimes.

The solution is to change the laws not "an eye for an eye.."

What? Lex talionis is punitive. Returning that which was wrongfully taken (i.e. stolen) is restorative and corrective.

However, in this case, returning the money with interest would be somewhat punitive, and that would indeed be appropriate, as it would discourage future carelessness in enforcement and abuse of the citizens of NY.

If you fail to pay all the taxes you owe, you are required to pay penalties. If the government fails to correctly enforce the law and wrongfully fines innocent citizens, why should it not be required to pay penalties?

This is the most basic way to hold government accountable for such carelessness. When a department fails to meet its budget because it did not correctly train its officers in the law, did not properly oversee enforcement, and now has to repay what it wrongfully took, those responsible for the oversight will be replaced with others more competent. As a result, the citizens have a more competent, ethical, accountable, and efficient government.

Wherever did you get the idea that, "Well, as long as you promise not to do it again..." is a sensible solution?

This is more than an eye for an eye: it is the PD that had its procedures wrong, and you are asking the victims to pay the cost (in terms of the time, money and risk involved in court procedings) of making it right.

In an argument where the authorities are using the cost of repayment as an "argument" -- that's pretty silly.

But traffic tickets are just a game. The rules change, folks use the old rules sometimes mistakenly, should we go back and change the score? Also these are folks who didn't challenge it the first time around - are they going to get up in arms now? I'm guessing not.

Traffic tickets are not "just a game" and if you believe that then I challenge you to drive in a place where they aren't issued.

Laws change because we learn from experience and over time situations change.

My dad went through something similar, though on a smaller scale. His van had a folding wheelchair lift on the back, which would block the view of the license plate from a distance but not from up close. Based on current law, this was perfectly legal, but some police officers had been trained otherwise in the past and hadn't received updated training like traffic agents had. Eventually, after he successfully contested a few tickets, the police department used a picture of his van in their training manuals -- and he put that picture in his back window, with a label for what page of the manual it was in, and stopped getting tickets.

That's some beautiful self-referentiality. Here's a photo of your handbook, which contains a photo of this exact car. If only he could have made it appear recursive...

I wouldn't be surprised if he photographed the van with the photo in the window to submit to the police as an "updated" photo. He was a software engineer for a few decades and it would fit his sense of humor.

Sneaky/easy version, he'd just photoshop his displayed page to have that in the photo.

He'd be displaying a fake page, identical in all details, except for the recursion. "You won't believe the one difference in this ..."

Have you memorized the entirety of the law?


In a city where disagreeing with law enforcement's wrong or illegal activity risks violent reaction or death, it is not solely the citizen's obligation to correct law enforcement's mistakes.

Law enforcement tax the citizens to pay professionals to enforce laws. Those professionals have a duty to do their job properly.

I've always thought it was odd that ignorance of the law is no excuse for civilians breaking it, but is an excuse for police breaking it.

Heien vs. North Carolina

links are always better than not links for stuff like this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heien_v._North_Carolina

A terrible decision

> Have you memorized the entirety of the law?

The answer to that question is also the answer to the questions:

* Can you checkout the book of laws out of the library?

* Can you buy the book of laws on Amazon? Can you even afford to buy the book of laws?

Most law libraries do not let you check out their copies of the legal code. Also most law libraries tend to be in court buildings, and not at public library branches. My public library has lots of hours outside the normal 0900 to 1700, my city's law library is open from 0800 to 1700.

Your point about purchasing a paper copy of the legal code is spot on. In my state, I asked my local government workers (clerks, law librarians, etc) where to buy a copy of my state's code. There seems to be only one source and it costs more than 700 USD.

For someone who lives on the opposite side of town from the courthouse, or spends more on rent than a potential law book, reading law on paper can be impossible.

There are online versions, but somehow I think that most people wouldn't be willing to suffer through the mountains of legal text on their phones. The interfaces I've seen sometimes even break tab navigation by using javascript references to each item, making them a pain to use on a big screen.

> In a city where disagreeing with law enforcement's wrong or illegal activity risks violent reaction or death

People challenge infractions in court all the time. Theyre not in much danger. There is a process for this that involves courts and sometimes a lawyer.

You're conflating the judicial system with street interactions with the police, where contesting the NYPD is indeed a risky proposition.

> People challenge infractions in court all the time.

In New York City, most infractions are not challengeable in court. Unless you consider the city Finance Department a court or consider its commissioner a judge.

New York has only one, unified judiciary. The mayor and his commissioners are not part of it. The mayor and his commissioners are not judges.

Did the person you're responding to delete the word "solely" from their comment?

That's a ridiculous statement.

Like any other bureaucracy, if you get a ticket or citation, you're free to contest it. This wasn't a systematic abuse of power -- it was a bureaucratic oversight.

> there is also something to be said about the fact citizens should be aware of their own rights and laws. Any citizen could and should have contested wrongly issued tickets.

As gohrt points out, this cannot be done. Being aware of the laws that apply to you in the US is far beyond any human capacity.

It seems to me, if there was a bug in a company system that charged customers when they should not have, I don't think you can just say "sorry" and not pay the money back.

I would be appalled if people here on HN were applauding a company for apologizing for effectively stealing money and not returning it. What is the difference?

If a lack of training is the reason for these erroneous tickets, perhaps the parking regulations are not simple enough or communicated well enough. If a patrol officer requires training to intepret the regulations, what level of understanding can we expect from a driver?

What's the point of open data if there is no accountability?

So far a blogger received an email with an apology. That's not much to get excited about.

What's to stop them from carrying on as usual if there are no repercussions and only millions in revenue for them to collect?

Thanks for this.

Please coordinate with http://www.donotpay.co.uk to help citizens challenge these illegal tickets.

Definitely...it's easy for a bureaucrat to say "Thanks for the help, we'll do better next time!" if no one's getting fired.

Yeah. I see what you're saying in the parent comment – even getting this much of a response is a positive thing compared to existing practice, but it's not an overall positive. I suspect they want to avoid a possible lawsuit for unlawfully ticketing legally parked people and hope this blows over because they "gracefully addressed" their (illegal) practices.

A really great response would have been, ”Thanks for contacting us. We realize that we were wrong for issuing these tickets. We will now put in place a program to refund the people who were wrongly issued tickets.”

OP Here. This is an amazing response from a city agency. In the end of the day, agencies rarely interact directly with citizens. The normal response to someone analyzing your data is to close up and have no comment. The fact that they admit the mistake is huge, and big step forward for Open Data and agency interaction.

I hope I'm not trivializing the value of your work. You have done the general public a great service by finding these erroneous citations. Thank you for that!

All I was saying is that there is a strong moral case for people who were wrongly fined in this manner to receive refunds on their fines, and I think the city agency should do that (but almost certainly won't).

I think it is a very positive thing that the OP accomplished. And yes, I think the city should pay back for the wrongly issued parking tickets.

The official admits there was an error and defines why it happened. This in itself opens the door for the wrongly ticketed parties to claim a refund, since their is the admission by the city official.

Now, who's going to inform those wrongly-ticketed citizens? Certainly not the city. It will cost more for them to re-analyze, and contact all of those people. They should, but it will not happen.

Great work by the OP! Glad to see NYPD in a positive light.

Slightly OT: I was born and raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and I remember people used to double-park, or do whatever they pleased, and rack up hundreds of dollars (thousands today) in parking tickets, and then bargain the total fine down to a fraction of the fines. It was cheaper than legally paying monthly parking rates!

I don't know about the specifics, but they should get the administrative "fees" back, which are typically claimed even when someone is not guilty.

The city certainly won't come forward and dish out the cash voluntarily. It would take a class action to accomplish the task. We'll see in the coming weeks/months if such an action takes form.

This may be illegal under sovereign immunity, though they could attempt to sue a county or municipality.

In Florida, a long-contested issue over red light cameras resulted in a judgement that having their tickets contested in special City Hall hearings, rather than through state traffic laws, was illegal. If a similar case is happening here, they could attempt that lawsuit, and if they win, then attempt their class-action.

You also have to get around statute of limitations and notice of claim limits for new york, not to mention shared liability. Remember: New York City parking violation tickets can be disputed as defective without going to court. You can even request an online hearing! So a court may throw out any argument that a class-action lawsuit might claim that it was unreasonable for _all_ of those people to be unable to file a dispute.

Interestingly, I found this brochure on their website that mentions code 67 (pedestrian ramps), but does not at all mention the exception for ramps in the middle of the street with no sign or marked walkway. It should really have been updated after 2008: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/translation...

Sure. Which means that, similarly, a really great response from the public would be along the lines of "We greatly appreciate the data transparency program, the NYPD's responsiveness and the steps being taken to correct this going forward. We understand that any large organization dealing with literally millions of cases of parking violations is bound to make mistakes. All the same, we believe that people who were ticketed in error should be refunded. If there is no budget in place for the overhead of correcting this error, then perhaps a budget to that effect can be passed by the city. We will gladly put the extra few tax cents per person this year to see this corrected, if you will put the organizational effort to make it so and the process in place so that this will not easily repeat in the future."

One can imagine a stronger version of the above in which the agency is asked to find funds within their existing budget to redress the mistake. However, "thieves! they must be fired!" is not the correct response to public servants making an honest mistake (as opposed to dishonest mistakes, of course, but that doesn't seem to be the case at hand).

Two things. Firstly I am pretty impressed that they thanked him and see the work as positive (sadly, that is not the typical reaction) and secondly I'm pretty sure refunds will happen because that was their response. The typical response leaves plausible deniability this answer does not imo. Anything police related is usually keenly aware of the legal ramifications of such statements thus I believe the intention is to pay up.

Exactly, the proof in the pudding is if the author reruns his analysis a few years down the road with the expected outcome of a dramatic drop in tickets issued in those locations.

Anything else is just blowing smoke (EDIT: on the part of the government agencies)

OP Here. If you go through my blog, you'll see that I have pushed for change from many agencies. Scroll to bottom of article for list. And yes, I will be rechecking.

It's hard to read between the lines, especially from afar, but their motivation to put a positive spin on it could also be political. The phrase "a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules" caught my eye. Maybe they are using these revelations to support an ongoing spat over said rules.

Yeah, this. NYC issues ~$500 mil in parking tickets per year. If this were a rational issue, someone would look at that and say "Wow. We must be doing something wrong, this is way too many tickets written. Are the street signs clear enough?"

I'm kind of making fun, but they don't want to fix the problem because those tickets are a genuine revenue stream for the city. When the revenue from parking tickets goes down, everyone panics.

See http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/06/news/economy/nypd-tickets/

A different rational response could be to raise parking ticket prices.

I live in NYC. Parking here is so expensive that paying for a parking ticket (if you happen to get caught parking illegally) is cheaper than paying for the parking garage!

A monthly parking garage in my neighborhood (west village, manhattan) can cost $700-800. Parking on the street is not a perfect substitute, but I can get 10-12 parking tickets a month before the cost of parking illegally exceeds the cost of paying for garage space!

Haha, we do this in Miami Beach too. Some streets will tow you, but the others, just a chance of a $17 ticket if you pay within 30 days.

Parking is so expensive and hard to find (like half of the area is parking for "resident sticker only") that most people I know simply park in the residential areas and see what happens.

Making garage space more valuable. Not much further to go before the care and maintenance of a sedan chair becomes economically viable.

I have gotten better at reading signs, but I remember when I first started driving down to NYC several years back. I got a parking ticket that was for $120. I remember trying to read the sign, and I could not make heads or tails of it. Now I just end up paying for garage parking. It can be a waste of money if your there for only 2 hours, but its still better than forking out $120.

Here is the actual rule: §4-08(f)(7) Pedestrian ramps. Alongside or in a manner which obstructs a curb area which has been cut down, lowered or otherwise constructed or altered to provide access for persons with disabilities at a marked or unmarked crosswalk as defined in subdivision (b) of §4-01 of this chapter. A person may stop, stand or park a vehicle alongside or in a manner which obstructs a pedestrian ramp not located within such crosswalk, unless otherwise prohibited.

I'm not surprised that people are having a hard time with it. What does it really say? After reading it 3 or 4 times, I was sure you made a typo. Then I realized you probably copy and pasted it, so it's not a typo.

In the end, I finally concluded that it is legal to park across a disabled access spot in the curb unless it's in a crosswalk or otherwise prohibited.

Which is contrary to common sense, IMO... But then, that's probably why they decided to codify it.

> Which is contrary to common sense, IMO

Its not contrary to common sense - ramps are needed at crosswalks so people can cross the street. A ramp in the middle of the street, with no crosswalk around, is not needed.

You are assuming that the only reason someone in a wheelchair might have to go between the sidewalk and the street is to access a crosswalk to cross the street. That is an incorrect assumption.

Vehicles that carry wheelchairs often load and unload the wheelchair from the street in the rear of the vehicle. Ramps in the middle of the street help people in wheelchairs to enter and leave such vehicles without having to go all the way to a crosswalk.

Line between "putting a positive spin" and "doing a positive thing" can be quite blurry — in this case, I honestly think it's a combination of the two. Of course, beurocrats and politicians often act out of selfish motivations, thinking about public perception instead of public good — but if this motivation leads to them serving public good, what's the difference?

Quick tangent - the reason why we have so many news-from-the-weird stories involving a "Florida Man" is because Florida has an unparalleled history of open government. Every email, every meeting, and (most importantly for funny news) every police report can be known by anyone who asks for them. Along with the fact that Florida is the 3rd most populous state, the result is the excellent @_FloridaMan Twitter account.

are people going to get their money back?

This is the real question. It is easy to admit you made a mistake when there isn't much in the way of consequences.

The problem with anything that can solve complicated rules and changes to them is that it can really help perpetuate the use of complicated rules. :-(

An anecdot: when I lived in Manhattan in 2001, I parked near 61st and 1st, between two differing parking signs. I was clearly very close to one, and much further from another, by at least 50 yards. I got a ticket for illegal parking according to the further sign. Being a broke ex-dot-commer, I was furious, so I photographed and measured everything, and put together a seven page report.

After a long while, I got a response back from the responsible agency, which agreed that I was in compliance with the parking rules, and thus they would reduce the fine from $100 to $40. What??

Processing fee. Five bucks plus five per page they had to read.

'There is no such thing as a plea of innocence in my court. A plea of innocence is guilty of wasting my time. Guilty.'

i've had a similar situation in germany though not related to parking. i fought back while everybody suggested to just pay. after several letters quoting the law, they lowered the fine.

i wanted to fight to the end because it was a sign for me that they half-admitted wrong-doing.

but, as a sheep, i ended up paying. still hate myself for giving in.

I once parked in a free spot and got a ticket with the attendant claiming it was a disabled space. There were no markings or signs so I complained. They told me to get lost and painted a picture of a man in a wheelchair on the spot the week after. This was not in the US, btw. Bloody bureaucrats.

Weighted average of the two signs?

In 2011, I was given two parking tickets when legally parked in Boston.

The first ticket was issued for parking in resident street parking without a permit. I was actually parked just after the sign delimiting the resident parking area[1]. I photographed where I was parked and sent in an appeal which was accepted.

A month later, I was parked in the same non-resident street parking and I was issued a ticket for failing to pay a parking meter; the number of the meter I supposedly failed to pay was a LONG block and a half away from where I was parked. Again, I submitted an appeal, but this time it was not accepted.

The friend I was visiting when I received these tickets was a producer for a local television news station. She told the story of these two tickets to their investigative reporter who was interested in the story and was going to inquire about it with the Boston PD. Apparently she didn't get anywhere with the story, but Boston PD did stop sending me failure to pay notifications for the fine.

[1]: This non-resident street parking was not metered.

(EDIT: Foot-note formatting)

Nice. I'm just hoping you won't find out one day that they didn't forget in the form of an arrest warrant or something like that for failure to pay. (Disclaimer: I live in Melbourne, Australia, so that could just be the stuff of fiction for what I know).

MA will enforce unpaid fines with non-renewal of MA driver's license or vehicle registration. I don't know with which states MA has a reciprocity agreement for that. (And eventually, I think at 3 overdue tickets, your car is eligible for the boot.)

These are civil fines; no arrest warrant will be issued, but I also doubt that just because BPD stopped sending notices that they agree the ticket was bogus and have deleted it. Far more likely is they just stopped sending notices and the ticket is still active.

> I also doubt that just because BPD stopped sending notices that they agree the ticket was bogus and have deleted it. Far more likely is they just stopped sending notices and the ticket is still active.

I attempted to pay the ticket, it was no longer in the system.

I don't know about Massachusetts but in my state you can look up arrest warrants and criminal citations online. All public information.

As the article explained, tickets had been voided when cases were disputed as widely happens in just about every city.

Honestly, if I were a public official reading the comments here, I'd be inclined to just go "Why do I even bother? I explained how, even though the people who hand out most of the parking tickets were educated about the change, many police officers weren't. We'll fix it now."

Sure, rerun the analysis a year or two down the road. If things don't change, that's a story. But this strikes me as a nice use of open data and a reasonable response from the NYPD. You can argue that they should do pro-active refunds but a lot of addresses will have changed and it would be otherwise difficult and expensive. I'm honestly not convinced that's a reasonable expectation.

> You can argue that they should do pro-active refunds but a lot of addresses will have changed and it would be otherwise difficult and expensive. I'm honestly not convinced that's a reasonable expectation.

If I owe my state or county taxes, or otherwise owe money, they will go through all sorts of hoops and efforts to track me down. Why is it reasonable to not expect that same level of effort when they owe me money?

> I'm honestly not convinced that's a reasonable expectation.

It seems reasonable to me - not being allowed to keep money that isn't yours and that you shouldn't have taken (even by mistake), consider the incentives - writing a huge number of false tickets and then returning the money only to those that are willing to go through the trouble of contesting the ticket.

Eh. Cities issue parking violations all the time when they shouldn't (partially because the rules can be confusing). And, at the same time, many, many people get off with parking violations because they weren't caught. It's hard for me to get excited about a specific group of non-violations because they happened to occur in high incidence spots as uncovered by an examination of public data.

I'm not opposed to the city making a modest effort to refund money to this subset of individuals. Though if it does so I expect it will be purely because they see it as a good PR play.

> ...all the time when they shouldn't...

Yup, so maybe some harm reduction (returning money) and negative reinforcement (hassle of returning) can help incentivize an improvement in the quality of parking enforcement service. Individual employees would likely have the same level of interest that you've expressed, but department heads would have a lot more incentive to act (especially if there is any departmental rivalry).

> ...many people get off with parking violations...

Is your point that these people would have deserved a ticket in the past or future - so whatever, or are you talking about some sort of municipal level karma balance where individuals are irrelevant?

So, it's OK to punish innocent people because guilty people go free? That's your argument?

I think the point is that sometimes fighting tooth & nail out of principle for an issue of minor relevance may not be worth it if it damages the goodwill of those making a big and relevant change for good.

It seems that there are multiple failures here. 1. Designated approved cutouts should be an easier process to obtain (just try getting a stop sign/crosswalk approved in the city and you'll understand the black hole that is the DOT approval process) 2. Over eager officers issuing tickets.

Pedestrian cutouts are there for a real purpose, namely accessibility for people with disabilities and wheelchairs. While it sucks for cars to get ticketed, I for one share no compassion with those people blocking cutouts in general, because they are not offering courtesy for those people who require these cutouts to live.

Edit: For those suggesting that the crosswalks in the middle of the block go "nowhere" consider the following. a wheelchair user parks his/her car and exits the car. he/she will have to cross all the way to the ends of the block in order to get out of the street into safety. even it may seem like it's going nowhere, there is a real functional purpose.

How does the city designate cutouts that are not approved for parking for disabled access, etc.? I noticed in the article that: "(Yellow paint has no meaning in NYC traffic enforcement, and the spot has no crosswalk)"

The traffic rule book only states (§4-01):

Crosswalk. (i) Marked crosswalk. That part of a roadway defined by two parallel lines or highlighted by a pattern of lines (perpendicular, parallel or diagonal used either separately or in combination) that is intended to guide pedestrians into proper crossing paths. (ii) Unmarked crosswalk. That part of a roadway, other than a marked crosswalk, which is included within the extensions of the sidewalk lines between opposite sides of the roadway at an intersection, provided that (A) the roadway crosses through the intersection rather than ending at the intersection, and/or (B) all traffic on the opposing roadway is controlled by a traffic control device.*

Basically it is approved if there are two parallel lines (marked crosswalk) or no parallel lines (unmarked crosswalk) and is NOT a T-intersection or if there is a traffic control device.

> the black hole that is the DOT approval process

Once one reads a number of successful and unsuccessful applications and their interpretation and implementation (including the substantive laws/rules, procedural laws/rules, and administrative court precedents), I think the DOT approval process would be rather clear. These processes are usually extremely verbose and pedantic for this reason. Once again I think lack of access to the law (e.g., lack of access to court decisions ala PACER) is a fundamental contributing cause underlying your claim.

Yes absolutely. However, at the same time if I'm understanding you correctly, if we take it one step further, even assuming we have easy access to court decisions, is the DOT approval process an absolute necessity to reevaluate each X number of cutouts in NYC?

Would this mean that a wheelchair user should plan weeks (months) ahead to google street view every cutout within a 10 block radius of his/her destination and make a request to have it become a DOT approved ramp?

> even assuming we have easy access

Then I would assume this discussion could take place. Here and now. And we could possibly come to a quick and painless basic common-ground agreement. But alas...

I would assume whatever law, rule or judicial decree required them also described their purpose. I would really need the entire set of such descriptions, preferably in neighboring places also, to even begin that discussion.

> Would this mean that a wheelchair user should ...

These are domain-specific policy questions that really can't be answered yet, by me. (By most people, within reason.) A general plan that's been put forward is that, after the law becomes machine-readable and widely accessible, regulatory compliance like this will become increasingly automated.

Cutouts enable wheelchair users to cross the edge of the sidewalk just as walking people do. Does the fact that there is a crosswalk with a step imply that a car cannot park there? Clearly no, otherwise there would be no parking stops at all. Then neither should a cutout.

Love your rhetoric. You're ignoring the fact that non-wheelchair users can ahem, walk around those obstructions.

NYPD ticketed Casey Neistat for not riding in the bike lane, a viral video put an end to it. ;)


While I think that's a good thing, this is different from that in an interesting way. In this case, the government opted-in to releasing data to the public. And beyond that they accepted the "government bug report" from a citizen data analyst and (1) issued a correction and (2) vowed to monitor this data item going forward.

A viral video is IMO not very different from having the local news media shame the government into taking the right action. While these videos have helped us reign in the systematic racism and violence of the police here in the US, it's fantastic to see the government acting in such a responsible and effective manner.

I've been working on something like this for over a year now for Chicago. Most of that time's been spent just simply doing data cleanups.

My most recent update from Monday: https://plot.ly/~red-bin/6.embed

Pretty fucking proud of that, not gonna lie.

This is a good reminder that San Francisco went the other direction and blocked Fixed: http://techcrunch.com/2015/10/12/fixed-the-app-that-fixes-yo...

Did NYPD refund fines from erroneously paid citations?

No, that would mean admitting wrongdoing by their officers and that will never happen.

It's also a nice revenue stream and would expose the internal pressures to raise money through ticketing by management and administrators.

They admit wrongdoing in the quote.

But there is nothing in the story stating NYC is returning the effectively stolen, as per their admission to wrongdoing, money.

It's not stolen, that implies an intent to do wrong. Per the NYPD's response (and given their candor, I find no reason to believe otherwise) it's clear this was a training issue and the officers writing the tickets were doing their duty to the best of their knowledge at the time.

And having said that, yes I believe the money should be returned, and probably will.

They sent an email saying they made a mistake to a blogger.

Not by the officers.

Are you asking if the NYPD issued warrants (wrote checks) against the city treasury to people who were either implicitly or explicitly found guilty?

Or do you not realize that if someone doesn't contest a ticket, they are implicitly acknowledging their guilt?

Or do you think the NYPD can just start giving out city money as they see fit? Note: guilt is decided by the NYC Parking Violations Bureau, within the NYC Finance Department, not by the NYC Police Department.

It might make sense to focus on the core issue of pedestrian safety and curb cuts. As someone who rolls to most of my destinations on wheels blocked ramps can be a major inconvenience that might conceivably compete with parking convenience as an issue.

That's a shame. Parking in front of a handicapped-access ramp is a shitty thing to do even if it is legal.

It's either legal to park in a spot or not legal to park in a spot. It doesn't work and certainly doesn't scale to have spots where "maybe I shouldn't park there because I might get in someone's way even though it's a legal spot."

The article mentions that regulations recently changed to allow this, maybe the cops are just using common sense?

2009 is hardly 'recently'...

Yes, it scales like this -> "That's a handicappped-access point, I should park somewhere else." See? Easy.

Why are wheelchairs rolling into the middle of the street? That seems terribly unsafe.

Why risk parking in a questionable area like a ramp cutout when some streets have an entire extra parking lane (indicated by a picture of a bicycle)?

All these downvotes, apparently nobody can appreciate a bit of satire :P

Because those spots are all taken?

You do realize this isn't productive? Please don't park in the bike lane, I need that.

Dozens of motorcyclists in downtown Boston recently had a problem like this. There are 12-hour motorcycle meters (25 cents an hour, woo!), but a parking cop kept issuing tickets for "Over 2 hour parking" at those meters. They assumed they were like the car meters.

I challenged my stack of them, and they relented, but refused to actually write me back with how/why this was happening, and how they were upgrading their training.

What gets me, is that I doubt they did a search through their system for all such tickets, and then immediately issued refunds- or put through a software patch on their ticketing system to disallow those tickets at motorcycle meters.

Refunding can't be that hard.

Refunding can be very hard if you have to write the check that you are hoping you won't have to write.

Sounds like having to pay an unexpected parking ticket that you weren't budgeting for ;)

Sad to see that a majority of these bad tickets are in poorer neighborhoods. It seems most of Manhattan (below the Bronx) is relatively ok.

I thought that too, but we don't know how many of these types of spots exist in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn, it could just be that the poorer neighborhoods happen to have more sidewalk ramps. Would have to do more analysis on the data.

Police may know where civilians aren't savvy enough to fight illegal tickets.

So, i would wait till they stop before i would declare victory :) Certainly a great step forward, but my cynical view, after dealing with tons and tons and tons of city governments (it used to be my job):

It's very easy to issue statements saying they've solved the problem. Rarely do they actually solve the problem :)

How do you know that these tickets, given at locations of pedestrian ramps, were not actually due to other things... like uncommon street sweeping hours or those pesky snow parking restrictions that are so hard to keep track of. Is the reason for citation available in the data?

> But thanks to NYC’s Open Data portal, I was able to look at the most common parking spots in the City where cars were ticketed for blocking pedestrian ramps.

To clarify, I was hoping to see validation with reference to the specific citation code(s), etc.

For example, open the 2014 data link [0] included at the bottom of the post. When I run:

    Filter >
      Violation Description >
        Contains >
There are no results.

It's possible there's a bug in the tool or that the violations are encoded using different language, but it's not something that's obvious to me.

0: https://data.cityofnewyork.us/City-Government/Parking-Violat...

In Russian big cities commercial car evacuation for misparked often bribes policeman to cover their activity. But resistance is futile and there is helping app against that http://peapp.ru.

We need this in SF. SFMTA ticketed my car for no reason before; I tried their "appeal" process, only to get a response that sounded like they didn't even read what I said.

I once received a parking ticket timestamped 2 in the afternoon. Funny thing is, that day I drove across the GG Bridge and went hiking - I had photographic evidence of crossing the bridge in the morning and the toll to prove I returned in the evening. Therefore I and my car were not in the city at 2 pm and could not have parked illegally.

Appeal denied.

Its quite easy to leave SF via the GGB in the morning, reenter SF via any of a variety of different routes and get a ticket at 2pm, leave SF again, and reenter via the GGB in the evening.

Now, if you had described evidence of the specific location your car was at the time of the ticket, and the appeal was still denied, that might be a different story.

Heh, please, don't defend these POS. They're cheating and they know it.

I got a ticket for the car being "double parked"; I sent a picture of how it was parked (right next to the curb in a legal spot). It was a rainy day, so you could even see that the car must've been in that spot for a while -- it's not like I moved it there to take a picture.

Later, I got a prewritten appeal denied notice -- it wasn't even specific to double parking, and mentioned none of the evidence I sent.

I also have several friends with similar experiences.

So, please, let's fire them, instead of making improbable excuses.

Here in the Netherlands, if a response to your appeal contains evidence that the handling officer hasn't read your appeal properly or does not give an appropriate answer to each of your objections, it is grounds to get the ticket thrown out in court EVEN if it was a legitimate ticket.

An example: If you object to the calibration of the SPECS camera (e.g camera's that track you over a longer piece of road to determine your average speed) and the officer responds saying that the radar equipment was properly calibrated, you can have the ticket thrown out as it was not radar equipment that ticketed you and thus proper care wasn't shown during the handling of your appeal.

Drivers should consider adding a GPS+time logging system, in addition to front/back video DVRs.

Huh. I appealed a parking ticket in SF one time and it was dismissed. I got a street cleaning ticket that said I parked on a Tuesday but the address on the ticket was on the Thursday street cleaning side. Just pointed that out in a letter and everything was dropped.

However, my scenario is pretty straightforward. I'm guessing anything more complex is going to get denied. You can always appear in front of a judge.

Yeah, back when I got the ticket I was really angry (can you tell from my comments on this topic? :P) and considered doing this.

The problem is that regardless of how angry petty bullshit injustices like this make me, it is simply not worth my time to go fight a parking ticket (it was like $100 or something) in person. Same thing for hiring a lawyer -- it's cheaper to just pay. Plus, I imagine they have the final word anyway and I'm quite disillusioned with the fairness of their whole "trial" thing.

I suspect this is the case for many/most people who get these tickets, and probably a large part of the reason that they can get away with it. It's disgusting but true, and besides someone exposing the scam with data like this, I'm not sure what else I could've done.

No you can almost never appear in front of a judge. Random people from around town (who may not even be lawyers) that adjudicate administrative (extrajudicial) trials are not judges.

That makes more sense when you realize that final appeals from these adjudicators' decisions go to the director of the agency.

I don't know how it works in SF, but after my final administrative hearing was denied in Oakland in exactly the way you describe, I filed an appeal in the county court, appeared before a real judge, and won: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10381103

No, you likely appeared before a superior court commissioner, not a judge.

1. The agency reviews it.

2. An "independent" ALJ reviews it.

2a. Sometimes the head of the agency can and will review it.

3. * A superior court commissioner (traffic commissioner) reviews it. *

4. A superior court judge (a "real judge") reviews it.

#. Courts of appeals do NOT review these cases.

#. Supreme Court does NOT review the cases.

You got to 3 but you likely never actually saw a judge. A hearing by a "real judge" costs a hell of a lot more than $25 in California.

I appreciate your skepticism, but I did appear before a superior court judge. Specifically, my court documents say "dismissed by court without prejudice" with the presiding judge: Ursula Jones Dickson, Alameda Superior Court Judge.

It is not just an issue of her name appearing on the paperwork. My testimony, as well as the parking department's, was made directly to her, and I presented my evidence to her as well.

You can check for yourself that it costs $25 to appeal a ticket in Alameda County Superior Court: http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/How-to-appeal-yo...

Edit: I am willing to believe that you don't necessarily see a Judge if you file an appeal, but I definitely did myself.

To me this is an example of how transparency through information services is winning. Eventually this will pervade every aspect of government. We are going to be in a much better place when we can see what our government is doing in fine detail; spending, enforcement, funding(think campaigns), voting history, etc. The technology is there now but we haven't quite reached the point where it's all on the table and expected/demanded.

"..., the department focused training on traffic agents, ..." -> The police got trained, but we are suppose to just know the law. How unjust.

It's not surprising that a small change like this could be enabled with open data, but big changes? There's been plenty of data related to medicare fraud, veteran's admin fraud, etc, but changing big things like that appears to be a no go even though the cost is tremendous in terms of affected lives and money.

Small steps. I think there's a knee-jerk reaction (and anecdotally I've found government organisations to be particularly guilty of this) of taking analysis like this as embarrassing criticism that needs to be rejected, not embraced.

EDIT: Sorry, my point there was - as more things like this happen we should see increased engagement from orgs.

After recently dealing with the various governments / nationalised businesses from a number of countries I can safely say that I am well and truly fed up with their inane bureaucracy.

This article doesn't surprise me: where the recent swath of internet companies seem to extoll individual agency/ownership, nationalised companies seem to preach the exact opposite - a problem is never the individual's responsibility and people seem perfectly happy to ship a borken status quo. As such, ludicrous oversights like this are a regular occurrence rather than a gross intolerable negligence.

This is not even yet mentioning how awful the UX is for the customer who has to interface with these institutions.

While it may be very easy to discard my point as rife with cliches, it's worth noting that we have become very spoilt by ruthlessly frictionless (yet equally effective) customer-facing tech products. The opportunities to streamline processes and save time and money for state-owned interfaces (both online and offline). As an example, I recently had to queue in a hospital with my sick mother for an hour, to be told that that individual couldn't process our particular issue and that we would have to join the back of the adjacent queue (not there was zero signposting whatsoever). This is one example and not a criticism on healthcare, but what happened to service-driven processes?

Instead we, the public, have to live with the dire reality of inefficient (and increasinly apparently indifferent) government services as the gap between private and state run services continues to expand as we grow increasingly disenfranchised.

The best defense we have against bad actors in government (whether intentional or accidental) is ubiquitous public surveillance -- not the government spying on the people, but the people monitoring the government. A cameraphone in nearly every pocket is a good start.

You can't park in peace in NY. They hired h1b traffic officers too, I've heard the Americans traffic officers weren't aggressive enough.

The T intersection at Virginia Avenue is not legal. The ramps serve an unmarked crosswalk as exists at all intersections in NY state.

Apparently it is legal to park there if it's not a marked crosswalk: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/parking-regulation...

It is state law. A municipality can't override it.

Do you have a state law reference that covers T intersections?

NY Vehicle and traffic Article 32

    S 1202. Stopping,  standing or parking prohibited in specified places.
      1. Stop, stand or park a vehicle:
        d. On a cross walk;
      2.  Stand  or  park  a  vehicle,  whether  occupied  or  not,  except
          momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers:
        b. Within twenty feet of a cross walk at  an  intersection,  unless  a
           different  distance  is indicated by official signs, markings or parking
Formal definition of a crosswalk in Article 1:

    S 110. Crosswalk.
      (a)  That  part  of  a roadway at an intersection included within the
      connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of
      the highway between the curbs or, in  the  absence  of curbs, between
      the edges of the traversable roadway.
      (b)  Any  portion  of  a  roadway  at  an  intersection  or  elsewhere
      distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other  markings
      on the surface.
In other words there are crosswalks at every intersection whether marked or not. Crosswalks elsewhere must be marked to be recognized as such. That is why the unmarked curb cuts in the middle of a block don't count for parking violations. T intersections are not special in any way and are subject to the same rules as all others.

Headline -- "The NYPD Was Ticketing Legally Parked Cars; Open Data Put an End to It."

Expanded & Explicit Translated Headline -- "Some NYPD Officers Were Cutting Corners in a Profession Where Cutting Corners is a Relatively Big Deal. Some People With Computers Did a Fancy Search and Now Those Cops Are Rightfully Getting in Trouble and the Shit Is Stopping"

You're welcome.

Nobody's getting in trouble.

Didn't ticket enough. I say, ticket all the cars just for being on the street. We need more public transit.

Nice. Something like this happened to me in 1979 in Berkeley. You can infer how angry I got. I was too busy, at the end of grad school, to even contest it.

Whenever I visit NY I dont assume anything is legal. If someone tells me walking barefoot is illegal in NY I would believe it. After all they kill people for sharing smoke and all.

It sure seems like I hear about a lot more authoritarian nonsense like this in the east-coast (namely northeast) cities, and not nearly as much in the west-coast cities.

I don't think that's what "systematically" means.

I do? When you're collecting two million dollars a year from ticketing legally parked cars, at less than $200 per ticket, you're not making a minor one-time error. That's a systematic practice (or, depending on your point of view, a minor one-time error that happened to be repeated 10,000 times every year).

The rules of the system had changed and part of the system was unaware of the change. The system was not working as a whole to intentionally ticket legally parked vehicles. It was not systematic. And it's a clickbaity title. My comment is getting downvoted to oblivion because people don't know the definition of the word.

The system did not stop ticketing parkers after the law changed. The system was broken, causing systematic problems

If it becomes illegal to pick your nose from today and you unknowingly pick your nose, would the police let you go? Would they "forgive" you for not knowing the law? That's right, they wouldn't. You would be caught and sentenced.

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