Parking in Pittsburgh has always been a problem. The Mon Wharf floods as often as the Ganges. Downtown garages fill up by 8 a.m. And then there are the tickets, and the dreaded "boot."
But the parking industry has a fun side, too -- and it was on display this week at the International Parking Institute's Conference and Expo, held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
"People can think the parking industry is pretty boring," says Cindy Campbell, chairwoman of the IPI. "I've never met so many good, decent people. The parking industry is a people industry and you may not see that, but it's the way it should be. We're not just heartless, terrible people giving citations."
How does parking industry cut loose?
But what of the notorious "boot," the metal clamp that anyone with five or more outstanding parking tickets in the city of Pittsburgh fears?
Plenty of "enforcement companies" were on hand to show off their take on the product, and the guys at Rhino Vehicle Immobilizer were kind enough to show us how the damn thing works. Suffice it to say you really DON'T want to drive your car withone of these on; the device clamps onto your brakepads.
We also talked with Chris Williamson, vice president of manufacturing at Miti Manufacturing, who makes the Rhino.
CP: You guys are kind of the villains of parking for people who have outstanding tickets.
CW: The boot is much cheaper then being towed. No one likes boots, but in the long run it's cheaper.
CP: So these don't damage vehicles?
CW: Most clamp right on the back and use a key. There's another model that wraps around your tires and can hurt it. Some cities don't care, though.
CP: Can people take off the boots on their own?
CW: It's made of steel. And it's all about time. If you take the time, but think about it: In five, 10, 15 minutes, someone's going to come by, you know? But if someone hooked up a chain to [a boot] from another car and drove off, would it work? Yeah. But that takes time.
CP: Who primarily uses your boot?
CW: Municipalities and universities, but for two different reasons. Municipalities want the revenue. Universities are more about compliance. Kids park where they don't want them to so at the beginning of the semesters you'll see a flood of boots so it sends a message.