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exit lanes to your parking facility, but you can lower people’s blood pressure by posting signs expressing regret for any exiting delay and advertising a 20-minute grace period during that event. The parking world is much larger than just gated parking

facilities. Surface lots across America employ Multi space “smart” parking machines to collect parking payments. Many public agencies continue to sell parking using single-space meters on streets. Single-space and multi-space meters also offer grace period options.

Time calculations by non-

networked multi-space machines and single-space meters are very reliable overall, but there can be exceptions. Time calculations by parking meters and multi-space parking machines can lose accuracy. Parking is paid in advance at these kinds of pay machines. Customers need to estimate how long they will be parked and pay accordingly. It is easy to underestimate the time one may need and, sometimes, people experience unanticipated delays. The penalty for expired parking in many of these venues isn’t just two or three dollars for another parking fee increment. It is a parking citation that will be vastly more expensive and require customers to go to additional effort to resolve the charges. As a

result, people are often angry and they are prepared to question the justice of the penalty.

Public perception can be improved and the volume of

appeals reduced if parking enforcement officers are able to say, “The meters are accurate and they give you three (or four or five) minute’s grace.” A grace period can also reduce the number of dismissed

I envisioned hundreds of parking managers picking up the phone to have grace periods removed from their systems’ parking revenue machines.

citations. Appeal officers often claim that the violator got back, “within a minute” of the time for which they had paid and that enforcement was too aggressive. That argument carries little weight when a grace period has been programmed in. The letter upholding the citation will not be good news to the citizen, but it will be assurance that the issuance of the ticket and the determination to uphold the citation were not unjust.

After reading April’s PT Auditor article, I envisioned hundreds of parking managers

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picking up the phone to have grace periods removed from their systems’ parking revenue machines. Before you make the call to the venues that you manage, take into account the equipment you are using. Consider, as well, the expectations and perceptions of your customers. Grace periods are not intrinsically a desirable or undesirable feature. They are one tool at your disposal. Consider the following from a local newspaper. An investigative reporter tested parking meters after interviewing several residents who claimed city parking meters were not accurate: “…A meter nearby on 28th and Summit ran out 20 seconds early after three tries. The next meter took 25 cents but only registered two minutes and the time ran out 30 seconds early.” (Oakland Tribune, 9/25/2009)

The parking manager in this case may not have been aware that his digital parking meters could provide grace periods. My guess is that if you were to ask him if a grace period would be worth a loss in potential parking revenue, he would have said, “Oh, yes, that would have been very cheap insurance.”

Mark S. Miller is co-founder and CEO of Public Parking Associates, Inc. located in Northern California. PPA provides parking consulting and revenue machine support services. He has also managed parking operations at the University of California at Berkeley, and the cities of Sacramento and San Rafael. He can be reached at

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