Parking patrol officer sees her role as an ambassador for downtown Lawrence, despite some undiplomatic words thrown her way

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Currently, there are 1,327 meters in downtown Lawrence, with three parking garages and nine pay stations. Tanya Green and three other parking control officers have the job of issuing tickets at meters that have run out of money. Here Green is issuing a ticket to an unlucky person on New Hampshire Street on April 3, 2019.

Some people don’t hold back their feelings when they catch Tanya Green slipping a yellow parking ticket under the windshield wiper of their vehicle.

As one of Lawrence’s parking patrol officers, Green has had some nasty words hurled at her while checking the meters around downtown.

“Have you ever watched the show ‘Parking Wars?'” Green asked, referring to reruns of a reality TV show about Philadelphia Parking Authority employees. “We don’t boot tires or tow cars away, but we get the verbiage.”

Green walks right past meters with one minute left. But if the time has actually run out, she stops and writes a ticket. She shows no favoritism. Even her son has received a yellow envelope.

If people catch her before she’s done writing a ticket, she might delete it from her handheld ticketing device.

“It depends on their attitude,” she said. “If they hop in their car, turn it on and start to back up and I am behind them, they get a ticket. There have been several times I have been intimidated by someone trying to run me over.”

Mostly she hands out standard $5 tickets. However, for repeat offenders, it’s another story.

“If you receive five tickets in a 30-day rolling period, paid or not, your sixth ticket will be a ‘habitual violator’ ticket with a fine of $75,” Green said.

While writing a ticket, she stands behind the vehicle to jot down information. If the tag is expired, that becomes a $55 citation.

She also checks for vehicles parked in handicapped spaces without having the official placard or using an expired placard, which is a $100 fine.

Patrolling the streets

On a recent morning, Green went two blocks along Massachusetts Street without finding an expired meter.

She enjoys interacting with people and considers herself an ambassador for the city.

“If we didn’t have to write as many tickets, we could be better ambassadors,” she said.

Green splits the route with three other parking patrol officers walking from Sixth Street to South Park and Kentucky Street to New Hampshire Street.

When she began with the parking patrol 10 years ago, her department was part of the police department and she wore a badge. In 2017, parking enforcement was moved to the public transit department.

Currently, downtown Lawrence has 1,327 meters, and it has three parking garages and nine pay stations, according to Bob Nugent, public transit administrator for the city.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

New stickers on parking meters help explain how much time a person can buy.

In 2018, 65,500 tickets were issued, Nugent said in an email to the Journal-World. Parking fines are handled by the Municipal Court. According to Vicki Stanwix, the court administrator, the total revenue for meter citation fines in 2018 was $562,263.

Brad Harrell, parking supervisor, said the city was also hoping to invest in new parking technology to improve the overall experience downtown for visitors, residents and employees.

Monday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., someone is on patrol. On an average day, Green walks almost 12 miles, except when she is checking the parking garages and parking lots; then she uses a vehicle.

The city supplies sturdy walking shoes for the parking patrol officers. Four times a year, Green gets a new pair because the soles have worn down.

When she applied for the position 10 years ago, the job description required being able to withstand the elements. Having just finished one of the harshest winters in a few years, she can tell her endurance has improved.

Some people affectionately call Green “Lovely Rita, meter maid,” after the Beatles song. Others, less affectionately, see her standing behind a vehicle on Massachusetts Street and try to splash her with water if there happens to be a puddle.

“People have asked me how I can sleep at night,” Green said, after handing out tickets all day.

She sleeps fine, she says.

Mostly she enjoys the job because she is outdoors. While she has never witnessed a major crime while walking along Massachusetts Street, she has seen some weird sights.

“There was a lady backing out on Mass. Street and instead of backing into the flow of traffic, she turned in the other direction and hit a truck. Then she got out and yelled at the other driver,” Green said.

Green’s advice is to park in one of the garages if you are going to be downtown for a while; it only costs $1 for 10 hours. Plus, she suggests checking out the city’s parking website, lawrenceks.org/parking.

Don’t think you can just run into a coffee shop and grab a latte without putting a coin in the meter, Green added.

Recently, a woman came out of a coffee shop just after Green had put the yellow envelope on her windshield. She told Green she had been in the shop for just a second purchasing coffee.

Green said the young woman yelled at her, asking how she’d feel if she were getting the ticket.

“I would have put money in the meter,” Green responded.

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