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Parking Puzzler

Oh beautiful for parking lots/ With demarcating signs

On the Fourth of July, Daniel Reiher parked his Chevy Astro in the Water Street Municipal Lot before heading over to volunteer on the griddles at the Rotary Club’s annual pancake breakfast. He didn’t pay for parking, and he didn’t think twice about it. That’s because Reiher knows that nine federal holidays—including the Fourth, Labor Day and Indigenous Peoples Day—are considered “metered holidays” in Santa Fe, meaning street parking at meters is free.

But as with so many government-run systems in the capital, reality is more complicated and, for folks like Reiher, maddening. He received a parking ticket.

“I am offended, as a veteran, to be punished for serving again on this holiday historically marking our independence from taxation without representation,” the late-’60s submarine pilot writes in an email to SFR.

Regina Wheeler, director of the city’s Public Works Department, tells SFR that the Parking Division issued 68 citations on the Fourth of July.

“That was for everything from loading zones, handicapped spaces, fire zones, facing the wrong direction and off-street parking, which would include lots like Water Street,” she says. “Those are the types of citations that are still issued on a holiday.”

However, as Reiher points out, there is no signage in the Water Street lot indicating that you still have to pay on federal holidays when street meters are exempt, and the Santa Fe Parking Division website doesn’t clarify the distinction.

Reiher says he wrote to the Parking Division with photocopies of its website pages regarding metered holidays, disputing the charge. He says he didn’t receive a response, only a letter reminding him to pay up.

Wheeler says that while there isn’t explicit signage to let the public know lots like Water Street aren’t exempt from charges on metered holidays, people should be able to infer as much.

“If you try to pay a meter on a holiday, it’s gonna tell you it’s a holiday,” she says. “But the boxes that you pay in those lots wouldn’t have been programmed that way, so they wouldn’t have indicated that it was a holiday. These are not exempt, but there wouldn’t then be that notification that you don’t have to pay.”

For Reiher and other Santa Feans, that isn’t clear.

“They don’t have proper signage telling me what the story is,” Reiher says. “It’s like getting stabbed in the back on the very day that we’re supposed to be celebrating our independence from unfair government.”

He cited a point in city ordinance 2016-3, which states that “each parking meter shall display the days and hours when the requirement to pay the metered space shall apply…” and notes that the parking ticket machine he parked near at the Water Street lot didn’t have that signage.

The distinction between a street parking meter and parking ticket machines like the ones in the Water Street lot was unclear to him. Reiher inferred from the city’s Uniform Traffic Ordinances that the machine was a “multi-space meter,” subject to the same rules as a single-space, street parking meter. As of presstime, the Public Works Department did not respond to requests for clarification.

Reiher doesn’t plan to pay the $35 ticket.

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