1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
This week, I asked Council to reverse a practice from the late 1980s to tow, rather than boot, vehicles with outstanding parking citations and fees. I wanted to make this change largely because the towing and vehicle storage fees are an unnecessary penalty that is particularly burdensome for people with low incomes.
Contractually, the current cost for a tow in Portland is $168—this is in addition to the unpaid citations and fees that triggered the tow in the first place. If the vehicle isn’t retrieved within the first four hours, a $25 daily storage fee is charged by the towing company for every day it sits in their lot. For millionaires, $168 isn’t much of a deterrent. For those who make a modest living, $168 can be an incredible hardship. The vehicle that was suddenly taken away might have had important things in it, such as medication. It might also be someone’s only means of getting their family around, or going to work, school or doctor appointments.
Booting gives folks the opportunity to appear in front of a judge at Multnomah County Court to resolve their outstanding citations, before they start getting hit with additional fines. Under PBOT’s new proposed system, people have 36 hours to either pay their outstanding citations, or set up a payment plan, before their car is towed. PBOT’s proposed plan also wouldn’t charge a booting fee nor would vehicles accrue parking citations while they remain booted in the street.
Council will vote on my proposal next week, with a projected implementation date of September 6th, 2016.
What’s the current process for towing vehicles due to overdue citations and fees?
The Multnomah County Court generates a “tow list” of vehicles with unserved tag warrants. The list is sent to PBOT parking enforcement and if they come across a vehicle that is on the list, PBOT contacts the contracted tow company and the vehicle is towed.
What does this ordinance do?
This ordinance gives PBOT code authority to “immobilize” vehicles for booting. Instead of towing the vehicle right away, it would get booted for up to 36 hours. This gives folks the opportunity to see a judge, make payment, or set up a payment plan before they accrue the additional charges associated with tows.
How does a vehicle get on the tow list?
Vehicles that have unpaid parking citations and fees totaling more than $500 and/or six delinquent citations are put on the tow list by the Multnomah County Court.
How is the Multnomah County Court involved?
As a result of legislation from the 1970s, Multnomah County Circuit Court handles all of the City’s parking and traffic citations.
How much does it normally cost for tow and storage?
The current contractual cost of a tow is $168. The cost to store a towed vehicle past the initial four hours is $25 per day.
Is there an additional booting fee?
A booting fee is not currently proposed.
How long will boots stay on vehicles in the ROW?
Boots will stay on vehicles for 36 hours before being towed. If the customer is making arrangements with the Court and more time is needed, PBOT will accommodate that. It is not the intention of PBOT to store vehicles in the ROW for a significant amount of time, however.
Will vehicles accrue parking citations while it remains on the street?
Not currently proposed.
How do customers pay the Court or see a judge?
Customers can pay the Court through the normal process in person. Payment plans can be scheduled with the Court, if needed. Customers can also see a judge at Drop in Court Monday through Thursday from 8:30 to 10:30 and 1:30 to 3:30 without an appointment. PBOT will not boot on Fridays, as the Drop in Court is not open.
How will the boot be removed?
After the customer makes arrangements with the Court, PBOT parking enforcement will remove the boot immediately. PBOT projects the estimated wait time would be less than an hour.
How much will the equipment cost PBOT?