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More Boots Make For More Walking

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If it seems like more cars are getting the boot, it's because they are -- 874 vehicle-immobilizing Denver boots have been locked onto Pittsburgh cars since October 1, 2005.

That's when the city's ticketing, booting and towing operations were contracted out to two private companies. Milwaukee-based Citation Management, which won a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, now keeps track of accrued tickets and spots boot-eligible vehicles from their own cars using cameras that read and scan license plates very quickly. Boot-worthiness, in the form of five or more unpaid tickets, is confirmed by an onboard laptop and via walkie-talkie. A boot truck operated by Brookline-based McGann and Chester then applies the device, and tows each vehicle to the city impound lot 72 hours later if fines remain unpaid. Boot removal fees are $300, while reclaiming a car from the city lot adds towing and impound costs.

"I think the increase in booting is due to more personnel" working for the private company than did for the parking authority, says authority spokesperson Tony Boule. While the number of boots issued in previous years is unknown - another inefficiency of the old system, Boule says - he and the onsite operations manager for Citation Management, Greg Stokes, agree the numbers are up. The 874 boots equals "quite a bit of activity," Stokes says.

He credits only systematic improvements that keep ticket scofflaws from slipping through the cracks, and not Citation Management's contract, which pays them by the boot. (How much per boot? The company won't say.) But Stokes says the parking authority certainly saves money.

He also expects scofflaws to be able to save money in the future, once booting becomes almost a certainty, by becoming more mindful of those piles of tickets stashed in the glove box.

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