NBC10 Boston Responds: Time Expired

One of our viewers was recently taken by surprise when she was ticketed before her meter expired. She turned to NBC10 Boston responds for help. Consumer reporter Leslie Gaydos headed to Cambridge to get some answers.

Roberta Hershon had dinner plans in July.

"I pulled into a parking space in Cambridge and I was a little bit early to meet some friends, so I decided to wait in the car until it was time to go," Herson said.

She read in her car for a while and then used the mobile payment system to pay for the maximum two hours of parking. Her receipt shows her start time was 5:31 p.m. and end time 7:31 p.m., but she was ticketed at 7:24 p.m. -- seven minutes before her time expired.

"I was really surprised and thought, 'OK, this is a mistake,'" Hershon said.

She appealed the $25 ticket, but was denied. Cambridge officials told her that she was first observed in the space by a parking control officer at 5:04 p.m., and that it is illegal to be parked in a city space for more than the posted time regardless of payment status.

"Once I found out that the meter begins ticking the minute you pull into a space, I was horrified. I had never heard anything like that," she said.

Joe Barr is the director of traffic, parking and transportation in Cambridge. He says he can understand why Hershon was upset about getting a ticket.

"After looking at the facts that we have and the information she gave us, I think it is a legitimately issued ticket," Hershon said.

He says parking control officers enter license plate numbers into a handheld computer that automatically records the timestamp and that could happen right after you pull into a space, as was the case with Hershon.

"If the first observation had happened at 5:30 p.m. and she left at 7:30 p.m., then she probably would not have gotten the overtime ticket,” said Barr. “I don’t want to say it’s random, but there is a little chance involved in when that clock really starts depending on when the parking officer first sees the vehicle. She was there for well over two hours, and at that point, you then have to say you were beyond the time limit."

There is no way to know for sure if or when your vehicle is spotted by the officers, so beware. Hershon has two options now: to pay the ticket or schedule a hearing.

"I’m pretty upset. I think that other people need to know about this and maybe have the system changed," she said.

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