Starts & Stops

Rail riders stirred up over unpaid ticket notices

Commuter rail customers received this letter from the MBTA informing them of outstanding parking tickets.
Commuter rail customers received this letter from the MBTA informing them of outstanding parking tickets.Credit:

Commuter rail riders may have received an unpleasant notification in the mail this week: notices from the MBTA for outstanding parking tickets. Very outstanding.

Several Starts & Stops readers e-mailed this week to bring attention to a letter sent out by the MBTA that alleges that the motorist has unpaid parking tickets.

Many of those parking violations go way back — some as long ago as 2010.

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Usually, long-ignored parking fines cost a significant amount of additional cash: a $20 fine for failing to pay the ticket within 21 days, and an additional $20 payment to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

But don’t worry, the letter indicates that the T is providing a 30-day amnesty period for motorists to pay a base $5 fee (the $4 parking ticket, plus a $1 fine) without having to tack on an additional $20 to $40.

The amnesty period is a benevolent act of transit agency holiday goodwill, right?

“This generous offer has been extended to those who have outstanding debts,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

But readers argued that the ticket notifications are so outdated, they never stood a chance to defend themselves against them. After all, who could remember what they were doing on a random weekday years ago? How could they prove that they had never parked in the lot on that day at all?

One reader, who frequently parks his car at the Andover station on the Haverhill commuter rail line, said the violations sent to his home date back to September 2012 and February 2011.

“If there were any missed parking fees I paid them using the envelope system that used to be in place,” the commuter wrote. “Is there a statute of limitations regarding unpaid parking fees? The oldest ‘violation’ is over 2 and a half years old!”

One reader from Ashland, whose alleged parking violations stemmed from July 2012 and December 2010, made a similar point.

“Is the agency that runs the parking lots allowed to go back several years and pick random dates to issue violation notices?” he wrote. “This is the first notice I have ever received that I allegedly missed a payment and now I am on the hook to prove that I either made my payment or I was never there.”

Pesaturo maintained that all violators received notification of their outstanding fines with the T previous to the letter that was distributed this week. He said motorists with concerns about the validity of their violation may call the phone number listed on the letter and file an appeal if they have proof of payment.

But Pesaturo maintained that all the tickets within the past two years are accurate and valid, and that motorists received an initial hard copy of the ticket on their windshields.

“This letter is not the first notification for violators,” he said, adding that the T has canceled some of the tickets that were issued more than two years ago.

Have other people received these notices from the T? And if so, how outdated are your alleged parking violations?

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