The wit, wisdom, zen, and philosophy of Paul Diamond Blow.

How to Avoid or Fight Parking Tickets in Seattle
Parking tickets in Seattle got you down? Here's what to do about 'em...

by Paul Diamond Blow

Seattle is a beautiful city, but the parking sucks.

I have lived most of my adult life in Seattle, Washington, and I know all the ins and outs. Seattle is a beautiful city and a nice place to live, but it's getting more expensive all the time, and parking tickets in Seattle can make it even more expensive to live here or even visit. Parking tickets are a big source of revenue for Seattle, and it is getting harder and harder to find any free, legal parking in the downtown area or even other neighborhoods such as Capital Hill or the University District, or any neighborhood near shopping districts. Paid parking in the city raises an estimated 37 million dollars each year, and parking tickets raise another 22 million dollars.

The average parking ticket in Seattle is for $47, for parking offenses such as parking at an expired meter, blocking a fire hydrant, parking in a bus zone, or parking too close to a stop or yield sign. You can even get a $47 ticket if your car is dripping oil or grease, for crying out loud. The more expensive parking tickets in Seattle are $250 for parking in a handicapped zone without a permit, and $250 for parking a junk vehicle on the street. There are so many different offenses which can result in parking tickets in Seattle, and if it is necessary for you to drive and park downtown or any other areas where free parking is rare or nonexistent, you may find yourself racking up some parking tickets.

What makes parking tickets in Seattle even more expensive is if you do not pay them they eventually will go to a collection agency which will add interest and fees. Also, with Seattle's "Scofflaw Ordinance" of 2011, if you have four or more old, unpaid parking tickets your car may be "booted" by the city and you must pay off the tickets to get the boot taken off.

How to avoid parking tickets
I personally have not gotten a parking ticket in over 15 years, mainly because I avoid driving my car to areas where parking is a hassle and costs money. For instance, if I need to go downtown I take the bus and skip the hassles of parking. If taking the bus is too much hassle and I need to drive (for instance, to Capital Hill), I will park in areas where parking is still free, such as in residential areas nearby where I am going. This means having to walk many extra blocks, but is worth it for the free, non-restricted parking. However, if you must drive to the busy parts of town where parking is restricted and a hassle, the best way to avoid parking tickets is to pay close attention to where you park. Most people get parking tickets for either parking in a restricted zone, or for parking at a expired meter. Parking enforcement in Seattle is very strict, so don't think for a minute you can park for 20 minutes with an expired meter or in a restricted zone... most likely you will return to your car to find a ticket on your windshield. Parking sucks big time in Seattle, so it may be tempting to park in a restricted zone when you can't find anything else. Your better bet may be to use parking garages or pay lots, which even though they may have high rates compared to street meters, they will be cheaper than getting parking tickets. All in all, be careful of where you park, and don't let those parking meters run out of time on you before you return to your car, or... instant parking ticket! Also, when parking in residential areas near busy shopping centers, watch for the free 2-hour, 3-hour, 4-hour parking signs that let you park for free on the street, but do not overstay beyond the posted time limits or you most likely will get a parking ticket.

How to contest parking tickets
If you have a parking ticket that you think is unjustified or that you just can't afford to pay, your best bet is to request a hearing before a Municipal Court Magistrate. At this hearing you will be able to explain to the magistrate why you feel the ticket was unjustified, or explain your circumstances. The magistrate may or may not dismiss the ticket, but even if they do not dismiss the parking ticket they may reduce the fine for you. If you work a day job you may have to take some time off the job to go to such a hearing, so the question is if dismissing the ticket or getting the fine reduced is worth the time you take off your job. You do NOT need to hire a lawyer for a parking ticket hearing. You represent yourself.

Parking ticket amnesty in Seattle
This is relatively new in Seattle and only occurs every couple of years (but not every year), but Seattle will sometimes offer a month of "amnesty" for parking tickets in which old, unpaid parking tickets can be paid off (in full) at the Municipal Court WITHOUT having to pay any interest or collection fees that have accrued. This can save you a lot of money, if you have many old, unpaid parking tickets, but you need to pay them off in FULL and the parking ticket amnesty does not happen very often. This is called the "Collection Reduction Program" and more information can be found on the Washington State website.

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