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Posted at 5:08 PM ET, 03/10/2009

In This Game of Slots, D.C. Drivers Are the Losers

By Gina Acosta

Last week — as I do almost every week of my life — I played the D.C. slots. This time on 20th Street NW.

I found a parking space, pulled into it and climbed out of my car with my quarter ready. The meter took the quarter, but it gave me no minutes. This has happened hundreds of times to me, and I know — as I learned at a price years ago — that if the meter is broken, it’s my fault, and I can’t park there. No matter that it has gobbled up my money.
Back in my car, I drove another block until I found another space, climbed out of my vehicle, and had another quarter ready to play the game again. My confidence was restored by the 20 minutes already registered on the meter, but I knew I’d need more time than that, so I pushed my quarter into the slot and what did I get? The time jumped up to ..... 21 minutes.

Twenty-one minutes?

An additional minute for a quarter?

I tried another quarter and got three minutes, bringing me up to 24. Then I tried a dime, which gave me two minutes, for a total of 26. Not exactly what I felt I needed, but I took a gamble because I was running out of change, and I couldn’t believe that my 60 cents had given me only six minutes, that is, $6 an hour. I guess these are the new rates for the D.C. slots.

There have been times when I’ve encountered three broken meters in a row — all willingly accepting my money — and then had to make the terrible decision. Do I risk getting another ticket? Forget the existential question of why a broken meter is my fault and not the District’s.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the broken meters in the District are intentional. The city gets your money and every now and then the bonus of charging you $25 for its own irresponsibility in not repairing the meters. How can the city lose with such a system? What’s the incentive for fixing any broken parking meter? What’s to prevent the District from waiting until the day when every meter is broken, thus ensuring the $25 tab for every fool who somehow thinks he’s going to beat the system?
Kinda makes me think I’d be better off going to Atlantic City.

Charles R. Larson

By Gina Acosta  | March 10, 2009; 5:08 PM ET
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Dude... Broken meters are free parking!

There's a number on the meter that you can call to report it as broken. They'll give you a case number which entitles you to the maximum-allowed parking time. You have cover if some Parking Enforcement officer comes along and grounds to contest the ticket.

I park at broken meters all the time!

Posted by: mason08 | March 11, 2009 1:07 AM | Report abuse

It's true - and (sorta) easy:,a,1202,q,636870.asp#3

Posted by: jess9 | March 13, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

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