According to this year”s Money Magazine”s “Best Places to Live,” alongside a special tribute to New York City, Ann Arbor was named one of the top cities with a strong sense of community, low crime, nice weather and low property taxes. Besides the “nice weather” (those that live here would beg to differ), these rankings seem to overlook Ann Arbor”s Public Enemy No.1: the parking “meter maids.”

Many students have complained about parking and the number of tickets they have been accumulating. For many, every day is a struggle to find parking. “I”ve been getting tickets almost everyday since the beginning of the year, I live on Division and couldn”t find a spot to park,” said Udit Amin, an LSA senior. “The timings of the meter maids are very erratic sometimes I get two tickets a day sometimes none I don”t know whether this implies that the meter maids are lazy.”

Contrary to popular belief, “meter maids” is an incorrect term for the officers who supervise the city”s meters. They are officially titled Parking Enforcement Officers working under the Division of Police Special Services, and there is a staff of just five that is responsible for the 1,700 meters gracing Ann Arbor”s streets. All meters on public property are handled by Special Services, whereas the Department of Public Safety handles all meters on University property. “Parking enforcement is never the same on a given day these officers have to handle any parking complaint, not just meter enforcement,” said Shelley Jones, Parking Enforcement Supervisor. According to Jones, the most common type of parking complaints are blocked driveways, tow-away zones, blocked sidewalks, abandoned vehicles and vehicles parked in the front yard of residences.

The Parking Enforcement Officers supervise the meters at random, depending on the number of other responsibilities that arise in a day. The meters operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. “I”ve gotten a fair amount of tickets from them since I can”t find a permanent parking spot and have to find parking on the street,” said Jocelyn Wang, senior LSA. “They usually come about three times day, morning (around 9-10), noon and in the afternoon (around 4).”

The officers usually tear up the tickets if the owner of the vehicle claims their car before the ticket is completely written up. “There were a couple of times that the meter maid was about to issue a ticket to my car, but I ran over to my car and they usually won”t give you a ticket that is if they haven”t actually issued the ticket yet,” said Wang.

Another student ended up with a ticket even though he ran into the officer. “I”ve gotten to my car twice when the meter maids were giving the tickets, and even when they saw me coming to my car they proceeded to give me a ticket,” said Salah Husseini, an LSA sophomore.

Besides getting tickets almost everyday, Amin even tried helping out fellow parkers running out of time at the meters when a meter maid stopped him. “I”ve been in situations where I”ve seen a meter maid walking down the street, and I started putting money in the meters that don”t have any in them,” said Amin. “The meter maid stopped me and told me that if I do some more of that I could get arrested.”

According to Jones, however, Parking Enforcement Officers do not have the power to arrest anyone. “They are not sworn in officers, they only issue parking violations that pertain to the City of Ann Arbor Code,” said Jones.

Although the University discourages students from bringing their cars, there is still a significant number of students who do, and the parking situation doesn”t seem like it will be improving any time soon. “No “reforms” are currently in the works,” said Jones. The most recent reforms passed were in 2000 through local business owner Craig Warburton”s challenges to the city. The reforms passed were a 10-minute grace period on meters, free holiday parking and new rates for long-term parking. According to the city code, four or more unpaid parking tickets results in a towed vehicle. Any ticket disputes can be brought to the attention of a Parking Referee. Parking citations can be contested with the referee in person, by mail, or via e-mail. For more information, The Division of Police Special Services can be reached at (734) 994-1613.

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