Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Seattle Parking Monitoring

Seattle’s King5 TV reports on “Parking enforcement’s powerful new weapon:”

An unassuming white sedan is the Seattle Police Department’s new weapon against parking violators. Just by driving down the street, George Murray, supervisor of SPD’s parking enforcement unit, can make a record of every parked car he passes.

“What we’re doing here is we’re actually reading the plates with the reader and electronically chalking them,” Murray said.

It’s electronic chalking because you won’t see any evidence parking enforcement has marked your car and started the clock ticking.

As the e-chalker passes by, its roof-mounted cameras send a picture of your vehicle and plate directly to an on-board computer. All Murray has to do is cruise the same street two hours later to know who’s been there too long.

Me, I wonder how long they keep the data.

13 comments on "Seattle Parking Monitoring"

  • Nicko says:

    Me, I wonder how long they keep the data.
    Hey, you’re in a public place so you have no expectation of privacy. They probably keep it until the disk is full 🙂

  • mckt says:

    Good thing my plate number is 1′); DROP TABLE `cars`; —

  • Nick says:

    great, now everyone will back their car up until their rear bumper is millimeters from the front bumper of the car behind them in an effort to obscure the view (hey, it’s perfectly legal!)
    Yea, it would only work until the car behind you moved, but I could see myself looking for a big SUV to park in front of (with my small car) in order to pull a trick like this in an effort to buy more time. All you have to do is miss the first ‘pass’ from the parking enforcement car in order to buy an extra hour (on average) anyways.

  • beri says:

    It’s inspiring to see the finest minds in the country working overtime to avoid putting another quarter in the meter!

  • T.Lee says:

    That is the real question – can it tell you have put more money in the meter? Or what if you use those paper tags in the windshield that are getting popular. What is the methodology.
    Seems there is either a disconnect or some data missing.

  • Chris says:

    In many (most?) areas, “feeding the meter” is illegal. Businesses, I would think, would prefer a space in front of their establishment to be occupied by several parkers in succession, rather than one employee or nearby resident/visitor who steps out periodically to throw in some more quarters.

  • David Brodbeck says:

    @T.Lee: This isn’t for areas that have paid parking, it’s for places with a time limit — those “2 hour free parking” type zones. Normally these are enforced by putting chalk marks on the tires, then checking again two hours later. This is a less labor intensive form of “chalking.”
    A&E had a reality series called “Parking Wars” for a while that followed around Philadelphia parking enforcement officers. It was actually pretty interesting to see how that job gets done.

  • allan says:

    I’d like to think that the New School would focus on why we have metered parking in the first place, and take a page out of Donald Shoup’s book:
    (Based on this 1997 journal article reprinted here:

  • beri says:

    We have metered parking for teh same reason we have any public charges–to raise money. In my home city, we estimate that we raise about a million dollars a year, between meters and regular parking tickets (city of 85,000). I’d rather pay it 25 cents at a time than have my property taxes go up.

  • Adam says:

    This isn’t metered parking, it’s two free hour parking.

  • allan says:

    @beri – I think Shoup’s point is that not only is free parking bad, but metered parking is essentially as bad as free parking, since it is still under-priced. He’d like your city to charge more for less parking, which would not only raise the price but change the dynamics to allow for better economic development.

  • Joe Citizen says:

    Trivial to beat this ticket in court (if it is worth your time to do so). Just say “I was parked there for ten minutes at 2:00pm and again for a half hour at 4:15pm.” Then complain that this new-fangled technology that they spent your tax dollars on doesn’t work as well as the old low tech chalk method which rubs off if you drive your car away and come back.

  • Rachel says:

    Some people seem to think this is about putting more money in the meter. That isn’t it at all. Many areas have a 2-Hour Maximum parking time, which means that if you over stay 2 hours, they can ticket you even if you have paid the meter. I just got my tires chalked in front of my office and I was paying the meter, my time never ran out. This doesn’t just happen in free short-term parking, but in paid short-term parking as well. Not only that, because of the way the officer chalked my tires, when I drove to another street to park, the chalk was still there. I tried to pull forward to get the chalk on the bottom so it didn’t look like I got chalked in that spot, but no matter what I did, the chalk always looked like it could have been put there. I tried to rub it off and even that didn’t work too well. I am nervous to go out when I feed the meter again… Hopefully I won’t have to fight a ticket.
    And with respect to parking being too cheap… Parking here is already 2 dollars an hour. I don’t think it needs to be raised any more than it is.

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