The Hiller Instinct: Parking boot
The digital cameras on top of this city van can check more than a thousand license plates an hour. Pictures of all the plates go to a computer inside the van. Then, when any vehicle with five or more unpaid parking tickets is detected, out comes the boot, paralyzing drivers who either forgot to pay up, or, more likely, didn't intend to.
The boots bring Boston big money: more than $3 million a year from tickets and tow lot fees in each of the last three years.
No one pays much attention anymore when a car gets booted, but when they first hit the streets in the 1970's there were protests... complete with parades, symbols, t-shirts, and chants: "no way, we won't pay; no way, we won't pay."
Now, they do pay. Boston collects on more than 90 percent of the tickets it writes... compared to an estimated 40 percent in pre-boot days.
"I think once you get the boot, moving forward, I think you tend to pay more. I think people still like to take that gamble. Then you come out and you see that big embarrassing yellow boot on the front of your vehicle...I don't think you put yourself in that position a second time," says Thomas Tinlin, the commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department.
Psst: want to know a secret? There is a way to get a ton of tickets and never get the boot. All you have to do is never leave your car!
To avoid confrontations, the city doesn't boot occupied vehicles.
"You know you owe tickets. If you wasn't in that car, I'd a put a boot on it," says one of Boston's parking officers to a driver.
I ask a driver "You feel lucky that you're getting out of this?"
He replies, "uhh, pretty lucky. I'm just glad I was in the car this time instead of being up the street or something."
Boston parking tickets have become impossible to ignore. Cover your license plate, and the city can still see it.
Try to drive with the boot still on, and it will likely cost you more to repair your car than you owe in tickets.
Bottom line: When you get the boot, the city gets the loot.
I'm Andy Hiller, and that's my instinct.
(Copyright 2008 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)