Los Angeles

Thousands of LA Drivers Getting Parking Tickets Despite Broken Meters

Expert says drivers should be able to park at broken meters for free. But thanks to a little-known law, that's not how it works.

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Henry Powell parked at a broken parking meter in Van Nuys. The coin slot was jammed and he couldn’t insert coins. He assumed parking enforcement would let him off the hook. 

“They would see there were coins in there and I wouldn't have to get a ticket, but I was wrong," he said.

The city dinged Powell with a $63 ticket. 

“I was furious,” he said. 

And Powell’s not alone. 

The I-Team learned that last year the city received 10,000 reports of broken meters. Roughly 3,400 drivers contested tickets they received, citing a faulty meter. But the city dismissed only 33 of them – less than 1%. 

Jay Beeber, with Safer Streets L.A. and the National Motorists Association, points to a state law that says a broken, or “inoperable,” meter is one that “cannot accept payment in any form.”

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That means if the coin slot is jammed, you need to pay with a credit card, and vice versa. 

Beeber believes that given the number of broken meters, the city needs to bend the rules – if one payment source is broken, he says the burden shouldn’t be on the driver to have a backup payment. 

“Your obligation as the service provider is to make sure that the service is working the way it’s supposed to work. If it doesn't, then the person on the other end, the customer, should be given some leeway,” he said.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation declined the I-Team’s request for an interview, but in an email it said it repaired 16,000 meters last year. 

The I-Team asked the city about its plans to upgrade its metered parking, like Pasadena did, for example. Drivers there can pay for meters using an app. But in LA, mobile pay is only available at one-third of the city’s 35,000 meters. The city said mobile pay should be available at all meters by the end of 2024. 

Powell said he learned a costly lesson and will avoid broken meters. 

“I don’t want to go through this ever again,” he said. 

Parking at a broken meter:

  • If one payment method is broken, you must pay using the other other payment method.
  • If both payment methods are broken, you can park at the meter without paying, but only for the time allowed on the signage.
  • If you receive a ticket at a broken meter, take pictures or video to help dispute it. 
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