How Do They Know When To Give You A Parking Ticket?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It used to be parking meter agents could check if the meters were expired right at the parking spot. That all changed years ago when the Twin Cities moved mostly to pay stations.

That had John from Eden Prairie wanting to know: How do the Cities know when to give you a ticket? Good Question.

Both Minneapolis and St. Paul use a special set of employees specifically designed to look for non-moving traffic violations. In Minneapolis, they are city employees. In St. Paul, they are non-sworn members of the Police Department.

WCCO followed a code compliance specialist in Minneapolis to see how she does her job.

“As I’m driving and looking for meters, I’m also look for expired tabs, fire zones, bike lanes, truck zones, commercial zones and valet zones,” said Chantay Branch, a Minneapolis code compliance specialist.

Some of her days are spent writing tickets primarily in the Uptown neighborhood, while others are spent helping to direct traffic downtown.

On average, Branch said she writes about 30 tickets a day. On special event days, that jumps from 50 to 70. Her daily record was 80 in Uptown.

She drives in her city-owned vehicle with a tablet. At the end of each block, she finds a spot to park and pulls up information on the tablet.

First, she enters the street where she’s located and then the range of parking meter numbers in that area. A database shows her what spots are paid, which are expired and which haven’t been paid in 24 hours. She then gets out of her car to see what’s happening in the spots that are expired or unpaid.

Sometimes, no one is parked there. Often, though, they are. On a recent Friday morning in the North Loop, she found a parked car in a spot her tablet had told her expired four minutes earlier.

“There’s no handicapped sign on the license plate, no handicapped hanger in the window, no obstruction permit, so I will tag it for expired tabs,” she said. “Expired is expired.”

All of the parking meter information is stored in a central database that sits in an office in downtown Minneapolis. The data is relayed to the code compliance specialists via wireless communication. The system also shows which meters might need attention for things like paper jams or malfunctions.

“Compliance is absolutely better than it used to be,” said Tim Drew, parking system manager for the City of Minneapolis. “We used to hunt for people who had to use quarters to pay for the meter. Now, they can pay with credit and have a convenient time for them to pay.”