THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Globe Watch

Ticket sprang from hidden parking sign

Complaint spurs city to prune tree

A reader spoke out about a $40 parking ticket she received at Overland Street and Brookline Avenue in the Fenway, shown here. A low-hanging tree masked a street cleaning sign. A reader spoke out about a $40 parking ticket she received at Overland Street and Brookline Avenue in the Fenway, shown here. A low-hanging tree masked a street cleaning sign. (Christina Pazzanese for The Boston Globe)
By Christina Pazzanese
Globe Correspondent / August 29, 2011

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It’s probably safe to say that parking on Boston’s streets is not high on the list of things reader Madeline Fine likes to do.

Fine tells GlobeWatch about a ticket she recently got after parking at a meter on Overland Street just off Brookline Avenue in the Fenway. The $40 ticket, which she said other drivers also received that day, was for parking during street cleaning.

Her gripe: The sign warning of the twice-monthly cleaning schedule was just about impossible to see.

“To be brief, the Boston parking violation signage is sometimes hidden. For example, signs hidden by trees. The sign is there, yet hidden. One can park, and even walk by the sign, but not see it due to foliage.

“And I understand ignorance is not an excuse. I parked and violated. But hidden signs are a bit akin to a sting operation. Just how many folks have parked on Overland near the corner of Brookline Ave. and missed the sign and been ticketed? I am not opposed to the city getting revenue, but this seems a bit ‘off.’ ’’

Fine sent three photos showing her car and the hidden sign. “Seriously though, where is the sign?’’ she asks.

Fine contested the ticket earlier this month and is awaiting the parking clerk’s decision on whether she will be on the hook for the $40.

A Globe reporter found the tree branch and the obscured street cleaning sign that Fine writes about. Although the sign is visible from Brookline Avenue, drivers parking in two of the metered spaces on Overland by the corner would have a very tough time seeing it unless they went looking.

A city parking enforcement officer patrolling the area agreed with Fine’s complaint about the sign and told GlobeWatch that she would notify her supervisor of the problem.

To add insult to injury, Fine ran into more trouble while parking on Somerset Street to fight the ticket at City Hall. Photos showed that scaffolding around a nearby building extended well past the curb and into the road, making it very difficult for Fine, who is handicapped but does not use a wheelchair, to open her car door.

“Well, it was humorous as I squeezed myself out of the car - with scaffolding keeping the door from opening too wide. I could manage, but what about a person who has to use a cane or crutches, or needs to access their chair?’’

The city responds Tracey Ganiatsos, a Boston Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail: “When a Parking Enforcement Officer becomes aware of this type of situation, a supervisor is notified and BTD relays the information directly to the Parks Department to request that the tree be trimmed. The Parks Department prioritizes this type of request and, in fact, has already pruned the tree on Overland Street.’’

Anyone who feels a tree is blocking a sign should contact the City of Boston Parks Department at PARKS@cityofboston.gov or at 617-635-PARK (7275).

Those who, like Fine, wish to appeal a ticket - and perhaps avoid coming to City Hall - are encouraged to take pictures of the location, Ganiatsos said, and send them with a written explanation of the circumstances to City of Boston, PO Box 55800, Boston, MA 02205-5800.

Meanwhile, Ganiatsos says there is “a strong possibility’’ that Fine will get a reprieve.

“BTD tries to give the benefit of the doubt to those drivers who take the time and make the effort to appeal a ticket. For this reason, more than 60% of tickets appealed at a hearing are dismissed. This doesn’t mean that the tickets were issued in error necessarily. Rather, it indicates that we recognize that a driver might have been honestly confused about a regulation and should be provided another chance,’’ she says.

As for the scaffolding on Somerset Street, Ganiatsos says there is a permitted construction project at that location and therefore, “sometimes it is necessary to relocate parking signs to accommodate these projects, and this was the situation here. To ensure access, the handicap parking signs in question were moved to a convenient, alternative location across the street at the start of construction.’’

GlobeWatch appears every other Monday. Readers with problems they would like addressed can send e-mail to globewatch@globe.com.

WHO’S IN CHARGE
Thomas J. Tinlin
Commissioner
Boston Transportation Department
1 City Hall Square, Room 721
Boston, MA 02201-2026
617-635-4680