Don't give it the boot

Our view: Fee hike becomes fee for service

April 30, 2008

Those nasty Denver boots have proved quite effective in the war on unpaid parking tickets. They immobilize hundreds of cars across Baltimore while provoking understandable rage, frustration and outbursts that can't be printed in a family newspaper. City transportation officials now want to quadruple the fee to remove the hulking orange boot, from a reasonable $24 to the princely sum of $100. The reason for the increase, city officials say, is to better serve motorists. You heard that right. The proposed fee increase is being pitched as a customer service initiative. City transportation officials say the additional revenue would allow them to provide 24-hour service for boot removal.

What a clever ploy, trying to convince citizens that an increased boot removal fee is in their interest. The City Council should carefully scrutinize this bill.

No one would dispute the cost and time of removing a boot from a car. Motorists today can only settle their unpaid parking tickets during regular, weekday business hours, and then it can take up to six hours for a parking enforcement agent to remove a boot.

The proposed $100 fee is in line with what Wilmington, Del., and Washington charge, and under the proposal, scofflaws would be able to pay off their outstanding parking fines with a credit or debit card via telephone, receive a special code and unlock the boot themselves, day or night, weekends and holidays. Faster service, of course, means faster receipt of those parking fees. But in today's "gotta go" world, a timely turnaround is progress.

Now, who's complaining about a proposed fee hike? This is a fee-for-service many scofflaws would gladly pay.

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