Park Downtown Too Long, Get Towed

The open lot on First and Market is not a good place to park.  #

29 Responses to “Park Downtown Too Long, Get Towed”


  • I manage a business on Market St, and tourists (usually elderly ones) are constantly asking me where to park. The first piece of advice I give is to NEVER park in that lot.

  • “Park downtown too long [without paying for it], get towed”

    Funny, the same thing happens when you walk out of a store with merchandise without paying for it. It sucks that stuff costs money, doesn’t it?

  • IN the PDR of Cville, where socialists hide under many a nook and cranny, the thinking is that the rules are for someone else and no one needs to pay… although someone else sure needs to pay.

  • I’m with the city on this: the arrangement is legal, but wrong. To extend the shoplifting metaphor, imagine walking to another part of the store and getting charged with shoplifting. You didn’t think you’d left the store! And, even then, they could have just politely reminded you to pay. This lot appears to have the same problem—people behaving reasonably are receiving enormous penalties for minor infractions that are quite likely invisible to them. This is precisely why just about every other parking lot you’ll ever encounter has you pay when you leave.

  • Invisible? Really? Pay for 3 hours and stay more than that and think what..? There is really nothing invisible about your wristwatch. I spent many a year in the St Paul, Chicago etc paying just this way. In fact, most every lot was this way. You pushed bills into the # slot that was your parking # space. It was simple. No rocket science.

    Not sure how long you might be at a restaurant in which you be spending tons of money to get a steak you could do on your own grill for 25% of the cost, then you push just push in another ONE DOLLAR BILL!!!!

    Please. YOu do not get to have your cake and eat it too. What is reasonable about paying for 3 and expecting 4? Do you get that with rent? Utilities? No. You get what you pay for.

    And really, the lot is a whole 30 seconds walk from the restaurant. Get your lazy butt up and walk down and put another buck in the slot.

    The tow truck drivers. Just trying to pay the bills. Of course they cannot afford that expensive steak house…

    Elitists. Again….

  • Every lot but the city’s meter lot where the police troll the lot looking for expired meters that don’t give you 1 minute of grace. At least the city doesn’t tow but simply writes you a far cheaper ticket

  • I spent many a year in the St Paul, Chicago etc paying just this way. In fact, most every lot was this way. You pushed bills into the # slot that was your parking # space. It was simple. No rocket science.

    And tell me, danpri—what was the penalty for parking over your time?

    What is reasonable about paying for 3 and expecting 4?

    What’s reasonable is the expectation that one could return and pay the difference, as is how most parking garages and lots work.

    If I go to a restaurant with a prix fixe menu and order a glass of wine, I don’t expect to be arrested—I expect to have an extra charge on my bill for that wine. This is how normal commerce works.

    Again, the problem here is that people behaving reasonably are receiving enormous penalties for minor infractions that are quite likely invisible to them. There would be nothing wrong with charging them extra, slapping on some kind of a late fee, etc. $125 and a mile-and-a-half walk to boot? That’s a steep markup on that unanticipated hour (or five minutes) of parking.

  • The penalty was getting towed.

    If your late, you get dinged. The fact that this is an issue of amazement to those in these areas just reinforces the point of elitism.

    And how EXACTLY does the lot, and the tow companies know will be the length of YOUR infraction? Should they just sit and wait until you finish your Merlot and Grenache? How do they know you will be 30 minutes late, or at the club until 2AM?

    What they do know is that you paid for 3 hours, and simply expect the WORKING WORLD to sit around making sure you are happy and comfy.

    These complaining people are paying a 400% markup on steak and also complaining they did not put in another buck for parking?

    Really, all you do is show why Perriello got trashed in the 5th while dominating (although needing to pay for 70K of services in Cville) Cville. Out of touch with those that sweat-work for a living.

    The fact that you decide to compare a high end steak house with tow companies is really silly. Its like comparing the VQR with someone who actually needed to pay the rent with actual profit income… you were there once WJ. Do you so readily forget actually having to show a profit on your web pages?

    You know, the profit that creates taxes that pay for everything the government wants…or do you think that money is magically created in China? The China that just downgraded our credit. Downgraded because to many Americans think they do not have to pay for what they get…

  • I’ll take Waldo’s point that paying afterwords would be much more reasonable. I’d like to also see the option to pay by cell phone that lots in many other cities offer. There has even been apps developed that communicate with meters and make sure mistakes are less likely to happen. Maybe the city could spearhead a comprehensive payment system like this with their own parking lots, and perhaps the private lots would follow suit.

  • danpri…I’ll accept that your’s is actually a point of view one might reasonably hold. It’s not one I agree with, but I can see how someone would believe it. However….”Elitists. Again…” makes no sense to me. It’s a case of I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    Further, how much one is spending at a restaurant (which, don’t forget, helps drive the local economy…jobs and whatnot) doesn’t have much at all to do with anything here. The people in question were clearly willing to pay for parking.

    In the case of rent, if you’re an extra 25% late (that is, a week late on your month’s rent) you don’t get evicted, you get dinged (my most recent lease was a $25 charge for being more than 5 days late). With utilities you get charged a bit extra (my trash pick up right now charges $3 extra for late payment of a $95 bill).

    It’s also a case of being an intelligent provider of a service. The parking lot owner is going to lose customers acting in this way, though it is his legal right to do so. Repeat customers are a better way to make money than portions of towing fees.

    And no one drinks _Merlot_ in Charlottesville. Honestly. Merlot.

  • In reading the comments at the Hook one person notes that the parking lot payment system is, in fact, via credit card. In which case there’s really no reason the system can’t add additional money if necessary (and, in fact, up the rate…i.e., $1 per hour in advance but $2 or $3 per hour if you run over). Checkout with your same card on your way out.

    Or something reasonable along those lines.

    I had been thinking it was a cash transaction, but with credit cards in the mix the opportunity for any number of more reasonable ways to handle this increase tremendously.

  • I will simplify the discussion and explain why this is wrong:

    It’s a trap.

    It has nothing to do with entitlements, takings, communism, or the recent election.

    When you are making a significant portion of your income from the towing, perhaps more than you are from providing the service, you are not in business to provide a service. You are in business to trap people.

    If you are concerned with people running over their time, and thereby keeping you from earning an income from your property, then you would do what other rental companies do: charge a deposit and take any overages out of it. The fact that no deposit is being collected indicates clearly that the lost rents are not the true concern. It’s a trap.

    Traps are generally illegal, the fact that this one is currently allowed is the real issue. Should it be? There have been caps/maximums in place before, are they still in place? Should they be changed?

    My personal opinion is that this behavior is outrageous and immoral, regardless of the legality, and that anyone engaging in it is a thief. I would like the law to be changed to that effect: Force them to take deposits and collect only their actual losses.

  • The penalty was getting towed.

    I’m well aware of that. There’s no disagreement on this point.

    If your late, you get dinged. The fact that this is an issue of amazement to those in these areas just reinforces the point of elitism.

    Elitism? I don’t know what you’re talking about. You mean that fact that a rich guy owns a parking lot, and people who can’t afford to be towed get parked there? I’m not following here.

    What they do know is that you paid for 3 hours, and simply expect the WORKING WORLD to sit around making sure you are happy and comfy.

    Again, I’m not following. This lot is unmanned. There is no “working world” tending this lot. That’s really the crux of the problem here.

    Really, all you do is show why Perriello got trashed in the 5th while dominating (although needing to pay for 70K of services in Cville) Cville. Out of touch with those that sweat-work for a living.

    I have absolutely no idea of what you’re talking about.

    The fact that you decide to compare a high end steak house with tow companies is really silly.

    I did no such thing. You were the one who raised that comparison.

    Its like comparing the VQR with someone who actually needed to pay the rent with actual profit income… you were there once WJ. Do you so readily forget actually having to show a profit on your web pages?

    I’m totally lost.

    You know, the profit that creates taxes that pay for everything the government wants…or do you think that money is magically created in China? The China that just downgraded our credit. Downgraded because to many Americans think they do not have to pay for what they get…

    I’m getting the sense that you are having a completely different discussion than everybody else here, about something that has nothing at all to do with parking, towing, or fair business practices. You might reflect on this for a bit. :)

  • I find it quite interesting that the City only chooses to interact with the parking lot owner regarding signage. Virginia law gives the City many more choices, if the City would only choose to exercise those choices.

    There is even one concept specifically detailed in Virginia law that might address the specifics of this situation. Virginia Code § 46.2-1232 specifically indicates that localities can enact ordinances that require . . . . “at the time the vehicle is towed . . . the written authorization of the owner of the property from which the vehicle is towed, or his agent”; and that “agent” could not be anyone that works for the tow company.

    This could basically require some type of “attendant” (aka the “agent”), if the parking lot owner choose to tow vehicles.

    I think this is an available option anytime the City wishes to follow up.

    Oh, BTW, per Virginia Code § 46.2-1231, I don’t think any parking lot owner can legally use Colliers Towing for storage. You see, that section of Code details that “The owner, operator, or lessee of any parking lot . . . may have any vehicle occupying the lot . . . removed by towing . . . to a licensed garage for storage”. Colliers doesn’t have a garage (as “Garage, parking” is defined by City Code), just their own lot; hence towed vehicles can’t legally be stored at Colliers.

    Just a thought.

  • So lets turn it around a touch. I have a parking space behind my biz on the downtown mall. ON that rare night my wife can coax me to go do something that does not involve the la-z-boy and ESPN we decide to run out and catch a show at the Paramount.

    When we pull up to my space, someone is parked in my very clearly marked “NO PARKING” spot.

    How long do I reasonably wait until they are towed?

  • Oh, BTW, per Virginia Code § 46.2-1231, I don’t think any parking lot owner can legally use Colliers Towing for storage. You see, that section of Code details that “The owner, operator, or lessee of any parking lot . . . may have any vehicle occupying the lot . . . removed by towing . . . to a licensed garage for storage”. Colliers doesn’t have a garage (as “Garage, parking” is defined by City Code), just their own lot; hence towed vehicles can’t legally be stored at Colliers.

    It’s tough to figure this out, because of the poor interface of the state code website, but “garage” is actually defined in § 46.2-1200:

    “Garage” means any commercial parking place, motor vehicle storage facility, or establishment for the servicing, repair, maintenance, or sale of motor vehicles whether or not the vehicle had been brought to that location with the consent of the owner or person in control of the premises.

    So “garage” actually has a meaning in the code that is consistent with Collier’s lot, but that’s inconsistent with how one would normally define the word.

    I’m actually creating a whole new website for the Virginia Code that makes it way easier to understand it. I hope to be done by the end of the year. One of the many user interface improvements I’m making is the problem of definitions. In my version of the code, when you encounter the word “garage” in § 46.2-1231, it’s got a dotted underline—when you pass your mouse over it, the definition of “garage” from § 46.2-1200 pops up.

    When we pull up to my space, someone is parked in my very clearly marked “NO PARKING” spot.

    How long do I reasonably wait until they are towed?

    Not a second! Tow the bastard ASAP! Then stand around and watch as he comes back and insists that he had every right to use your private property as he wished. My family’s business used to have a parking space right next to the fabled last free lot (on Water and 5th), with an unquestionable “private parking, you will be towed” sign at every parking space. Much towing was done from there. I enjoyed watching every one.

    The difference, of course, is that there is no public role for your parking space. It’s not a matter of somebody staying too long—nobody should ever park there! If somebody stays past noon in their hotel room, they should be charged a late checkout fee. But if I find a stranger sleeping in my bed, I can escort them out of my home at gunpoint.

  • And how many people that overstay are rushing up to pay the difference at the lot?

    As to the lot. There is no parking there if you do not pay. They had not paid for the time they were there.

    And alas, the biz model of the tow company, who are much like the police in that when you need them you are really happy when they arrive. Sadly, they cannot survive alone on that alone. there job, like the police is to enforce the parking rules as stated…

    Afterall, the folks in question did not return to the credit card machine to pay the balance, but to their cars.

  • I think the fact that other business owners on the Mall (you know, the working world) are telling their patrons (you know, the people they depend on for their livelihoods) to avoid this particular lot and go put their parking $$ in the pocket of some other parking-lot owner in area probably tell us all we need to know about the genius of this particular business model.

    But I guess my sympathy for the business owners on the Mall who don’t want their customers to have an unreasonably horrible experience when they visit makes me an elitist. Somehow.

  • Again, one pays for the parking with a credit card. There’s no need to trust that people will rush up to pay the difference. They can and should be charged the difference (plus any posted additional fee) upon checkout.

    Towing should be a last resort for an intelligent business person. Certainly I’ll never park there regardless of any apparent convenience. Losing customers isn’t good for business.

  • What’s especially strange about this is that Keith Woodard has his good name to protect. He has a reputation as a reasonable guy, and this parking lot is surely the tiniest of his business interests. His reputation is being dragged down over an awfully tiny amount of money.

  • isn’t there something the city can do about $125 towing fees?

  • But it is an unattended lot. Who enforces?

  • Apparently tow-truck drivers enforce things at this lot. Tow-truck drivers who only get paid by virtue of towing cars and therefore have an interest in towing anything/everything they can. As evidenced by the example in the Hook piece of patrons who had to fend off an attempt to tow their car while they were trying to figure out the payment system.

    Again, it seems that everything here is legal. It’s also stupid. And mean. Let those be a guide for things not to do.

  • OF COURSE THEY DO. Are you that naive to think oterhwise? The guide is called free market. Yes, let this be a guide for what you do. Dont go crying to the press and the government to fix your bad choices.

    The problem is people who expect something for free, and get upset when they actually have to pay a penalty for not paying attention.

    Really, these “victims” are paying a huge markup for an easy meal: Steak. They are driving a gas guzzling SUV. And they try to save 2 bucks on parking. Cry me a river.

    The owner of the lot is trying to make his money as efficiently as possible while providing free choice to the public, AS POSTED. He allows small biz to help make their nut. Because the tow truck drivers are just trying to make their living (and they are not eating at the overpriced steak house or driving nice new SUVs–yeah they were WORKING!)

    If you think that anyone who overstayed what they paid at the lot runs back to the paystand just before they leave then your in la-la land.

    And those who think the solution is to have the government commence studies and impact statements and laws and regulations are the solution…sad. Just more rules and regulations and taxes.

    I suggest that we have that little something called personal choice and responsibility for self. Read a sign. Pay your tab.

    Don’t go crying to the government to fix the problem you created by personal irresponsibility.

    Elitist: the people who claim to support the rights of the working class are themselves members of the upper class, or upper middle class, and are therefore out of touch with the real needs of the people they claim to support and protect. And so many here are trashing the working class tow truck driver struggling to make a living while they defend the rich upper class who “struggle” in saving 2 bucks. Doh- that is why I call those elitist.

    No one else sees the variance…?

  • The problem is people who expect something for free, and get upset when they actually have to pay a penalty for not paying attention.

    Really, these “victims” are paying a huge markup for an easy meal: Steak. They are driving a gas guzzling SUV. And they try to save 2 bucks on parking. Cry me a river.

    You’ve invented a pretend scenario to feel outraged about, danpri. The person parking could just as easily be a single working mother, going downtown on some rare time by herself to buy Christmas presents for her children, towed in the time it takes her to walk to the payment kiosk and figure out how to pay.

    “Rich” and “poor” have nothing to do with it. Steak, SUVs, saving money on parking—none of those things have anything to do with the matter in question.

  • danpri, your screed against people who go out to dinner is an interesting one.

    Except for one couple who didn’t realize it was a pay lot the evidence is that people weren’t trying to get around paying or trying to save a few bucks…they simply underestimated the amount of time they’d have their car in the lot.

    Once more, hopefully with clarity, the system uses a credit card: it’s an incredibly simple matter to set it up such that the customer can checkout and get charged the full amount then.

    I’m not arguing that anyone should get something they haven’t paid for, earned or are otherwise entitled to. Not for a moment. (That is, no handouts.)

    Further, I’m not arguing that the City or State should pass any laws or change anything about this set up (that is, no complaining to the government). I’m also not trashing tow truck drivers (and haven’t really seen others trashing the drivers either). I pointed out that the tow truck drivers and companies have an interest in towing cars. It’s how they earn money. I don’t have a problem with the drivers.

    My problem is that, as I wrote above, it seems shortsighted and mean on the part of the lot owner. That’s pretty much it. Tweak the payment system and this is done as a problem. Swipe your credit card upon entry. If you don’t do that, you get towed. Swipe your card upon exit and you get charged for the time you were there.

    And please, for the love of the local economy, stop trashing people who go out to a nicer restaurant than you seem to think people ought to. The fact that they’re eating at such a place (especially on a very special occasion for some of them) tells you exactly nothing about them other than they went to a nicer place than you think they ought to on a special occasion for them.

  • Granted, the idea that perhaps they should be able to put their tix back into the machine after the fact for a final charged seems ideal, IF they put the tix back into the machine. I just think the whole thing is silly.

    My point on the restaurant/vehicle is that these are conspicuous consumption people. But dont be conspicuous consumption and then complain about something costing a lot of money. You just spent 5x as much for a basic steak and chunk of iceberg lettuce, which is easily done at home. And so many people seem to think they should be able to have their steak and eat it too.

    The best option you seem to have is to “tweak,” which often seems to be code for “I dont know but someone else should.” Really, unless the lot owner wishes to spend a ton of money on lag time readers and swing gates etc he has choosen a simple way to try and generate some revenue on a space that is costing him tons of money. How many people after their dinner, or late night would forget to reswipe their card? A lot. And then guess what? Right, a long story in the Hook about the bad guy charging someone 24 hours for a 3 hour stop.

    He has been sitting on this space for a long time after getting rejected by the city for his plans because he was going to tear down the already falling down facades. Facades that has no historic value other than being old and no (that anyone has been able to say) architectural significance other than being old. But you can bet he is paying some taxes…

    Perhaps if he did id the “Sweet Frogs” way and just tore it down then asked for permission…

    So my only solution is be responsible for yourself.

  • Waldo, great post on my “garage” definition, and I look forward to reviewing your new website (great idea BTW). It is really something that is truly needed. It is very difficult to navigate the currently available internet resources detailing Virginia Code.

    My thought on the “garage” definition is that this Chapter of Virginia Code also specifically gives localities the right to further regulate the “removal or immobilization of trespassing vehicles” (§ 46.2-1232). Since the City has already defined “Garage” by ordinance, in ARTICLE X., Sec. 34-1200 “Definitions” of City Code, the City’s definition of “Garage” would take precedence over the Commonwealth’s definition. Every “Garage” definition specified in City Code involves a “building”. Something Collier’s does not have.

    I think the City may already have provided a degree of (perhaps unintended) regulation regarding the storing of towed vehicles.

    What do you think?

    FYI: I just finished a class on Hospitality Law, and a hotel “can” physically remove a guest that stays beyond their contracted date/time (perhaps not at gun point). Generally this does not happen (bad business – a late check out fee is a better idea), but physical removal can happen. Just like the car, the “guest’s” status can change to that of a “licensee” once the posted check out time has passed. “Licensees” must leave upon request or they can be physically removed because the “licensee’s” status would then change to that of a “trespasser” (just like the car). Interesting, huh?

  • danpri, I agree that “tweak” often seems to mean someone else should figure something out. In this case, though, I mean specifically tweak the payment system so that there is a check-in (that is, swipe your credit card as one apparently does right now when they first park their car) and then a check-out (that is, swipe your card upon returning to your car). The card is charged for the amount of time between the two swipes.

    If someone tries to park without swiping a card, tow them. If someone doesn’t check out, charge a day’s full charge (just like most parking garages will do if you lose a ticket).

    It’d be a better way to do business, I think. I’d certainly be willing to park in the lot under such a system.

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