This post is a little different in that I don’t have a solution to the problem so am throwing it out to the readers to get their thoughts.

In the last few days there has been a bit of a stoush played out on the front of the NZ Herald between a man that was towed and the towing company. The story on Monday was about how he parked in a carpark that was clearly marked as a towaway zone, got towed and managed to get his money back but that isn’t the reason for this post, I wanted to look at why he got towed in the first place.

Here is what he himself had to say about it:

Dan Dwyer, a lawyer, saw the warning signs when he pulled into an empty parking lot on Dominion Rd but figured he’d take the risk given it was 9pm and he was ducking into a video store for just a few minutes.

“I thought about towing at the time but thought I’d only be 10 minutes … I thought we’d get away with it.”

But, when he returned with his movies, he found the Toyota Corolla he had borrowed from his flatmate was gone.

The story then goes on to explain about how he got his money back and he has this to say:

This was nine o’clock at night and there’s not a car in the yard … I don’t know why you can’t park there and nip in quickly.

As the title of the post asks, what can we do to change peoples attitudes to parking, why is it that people feel they can park their vehicle where ever there is an open space and how do we change it. We have seen similar issues with the new shared spaces as well as the Wynyard Quarter that has led to there often having to be staff patrolling the area to prevent this from happening.

On Tuesday we heard back from the boss of the towing company with a very similar response (note: I had intended to write this post before I had seen the response from the towing company)

Mr Burrows, also general manager of the First Recovery tow-truck firm, said it was frustrating some motorists felt they should get a pat on the back for the lack of respect they showed for others’ private property.

“At the end of the day, people shouldn’t even have had to put a sign up to say you shouldn’t park here.

“It’s always someone else’s fault. There was a sign there; he [Mr Dwyer] chose to take the risk. For every time he’s been caught, there’s 500 times he hasn’t.

“Why do people expect to park at someone else’s property and not pay for it?”

So what can we do?

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  1. I guess people perceive it as a sort of efficiency issue tied into the economic concept of excludability. They are understanding of towing to manage parking if the resource is in high demand, because if one person parks illegitimately the rightful users are excluded. But if these is no visible demand they see no reason why it needs to be managed, no reason why the can’t park if they are not excluding anyone.

    Problematic logic similar to people driving in bus lanes or parking on shared spaces, ‘well no one else was going to use it so it doesn’t matter if I do’.

    I agree with the comment “Why do people expect to park at someone else’s property and not pay for it?”, and would go so far as to say why do people expect to park on public property and not pay for it? The perception of the right to park anywhere there isn’t already a vehicle is something that needs to be overcome, but yes how?

    1. I don’t see what is problematic in that argument. Why shouldn’t the guy park there? I figure if all this space is provided for parking, we might as well use it. It has nothing in common with the bus lane argument, as no harm is done by the guy parking there as opposed to possible slowing of the bus b driving in its lane. Neither is it common to the shared space problem: cars parking there are devaluing its utility for others.

      The thing that needs to be tackled is all the space being provided for parking.

      1. The problem with that argument is it ignores private property rights and would be no different to saying that people have a right to park in the driveway to your home and that there is nothing you can do about it. Forcing owners to effectively have to give up their carparks for the general public for free would be strongly opposed by owners and would probably quickly see places erect things like fences etc. to stop people using them.

        There is another article today about the issue with comments from another tow company boss who said that a common reason why businesses put the towaway zones up in the first place is that people would park there then leave rubbish, cause damage etc. which actually imposes costs on them for which they get no benefit.

      2. What’s problematic with the argument (in any case) is that it’s not a problem when only one individual does it, but a major problem if everyone does it. It’s only an empty carpark/bus lane/shared space because most people respect the restrictions to keep out of them, and only ‘reasonable’ to use all that excess space if only a few people flout the rules.

        If we extend to everyone the individual’s sense that they are entitled to use an ’empty’ space, then we have a private car park full of other peoples vehicles, a bus lane full of cars blocking buses, and a shared space that people can’t share because it’s full of stationary vehicles.

        1. Right, it is a freeloader argument. I’d submit that stopping for a bit in a large, empty carpark in the evening is not going to convince many others to do so (if it was going to, the towies would let the first few stay around to

          As for Matt’s arguments above about protecting property rights, good luck with comparing my driveway to a large, empty carpark by a shop. And good luck pushing the line of the towies.

          The larger issue (other than what towies charge) is why do we have these huge empty carparks sitting around the place and how do we discourage them? Minimum parking requirements, anyone?

        2. I’m not pushing the line of the towies but asking the question of why some think it is ok just to park on someone elses property, especially when they clearly don’t want people to by going to the effort of putting up signs. As for the driveway comment, it is there to park cars so if you your not home using it then your argument is that anyone should be able to park in it and use it.

          I do agree that there is definitely an issue with things like minimum parking requirements but even if they were removed there would still be businesses that will want to provide parking that don’t want people using their land, even after hours.

  2. I don’t think the lawyer was taking issue with the fact that his car was towed. He was objecting to the fact that the charge appeared to be massively disproportionate to the cost of towing. I have to agree that I think this is an issue. I had my car towed in Whangarei (I was driving my boss to a meeting, we were late, it was raining extremely heavily, we jumped out and ran into the building, there were cars parked all around us, I assumed it was fine and didn’t even see the sign saying I had parked in a place that was a clearway from 5 to 7 pm) and it cost HEAPS to retrieve it. I simply don’t believe that the cost reflected (even marginally) the cost to the towing company of taking my car a few kms. I appreciate tow trucks probably cost a lot, they have to pay staff, there are overheads etc but I still think the cost was ridiculously inflated. And that was his point, I think. He probably would have paid a fine of say $120 no problem.

    1. I think the distance has almost no relevance to the cost of towing, the marginal cost of extra fuel and time related to the distance would be pretty small compared to the fixed costs of owning and maintaining the towing vehicles, tow yard, staff etc.

      1. Both of you are right – judging by the car owners comments, he accepted he had parked illegally and got towed. What he objected to was the cost given the short distance his car would be taken. And yes, this is irrelevant.

        How to fix it? Just keep on towing, keep on ticketing. Illegal parking is a massive problem here in KL and – in my opinion – is one of the contributors to congestion. There are that many major roads where a whole lane is lost to illegal parkers. I once saw people triple park on the inside lane of a 3 lane motorway when a concert was on at a venue near my house, effectively bringing the road down to a single lane. The authorities here have got alot more aggressive of late and they have the tow trucks, clamps and wardens out in full force. And ever so slightly, its starting to work (mainly for those who have been caught, especially by the tow trucks).

        1. Don’t get illegal (as in breaking the law) parking confused with parking on private property. Illegal parking is illegal because it, in some way, interferes with other road users by blocking access. An enforcement officer who is warranted by an appropriate state agency ensures compliance, issues a legislatively-permitted and -determined fine, and arranges for the car to be towed in order to clear the road for other users.

          Parking on private property is a breach of property rights, but it’s not illegal. There’s no fine, and no enforcement by a state actor. Call the Council to complain about someone parked in (as opposed to across) your driveway, and they’ll tell you to call a towing company yourself. If you block access, then you deserve to be towed. If you merely occupy an otherwise-vacant space outside the business’ operating hours, who are you harming?

    2. Don’t conflate a clearway, where you get towed by the Council and also get a fine, and parking on private property. You paid heaps because there was a legal penalty included. On private property it’s only a tow fee.

      Has anyone checked what you pay in towing fees for a Council tow compared with being towed from private property? If they’re not the same, that’s a pretty good case to be made that there’s a disproportionate charge.

    1. Its not about siding with the tow truck drivers but asking why we need them in the first place. I do agree that the costs need to fairly represent the cost to tow the vehicle and whether they do or not is really a different debate entirely.

  3. I had to laugh at how the Herald claimed towing companies were paying ‘kickbacks’ (their words) to people who were alerting them to people parked illegally, I never got monetary rewards for complaining to the council about parked cars but in my view it’s my right to be able to alert tow trucks to cars parked in places I know they shouldn’t.

    I think the only way to change people’s attitudes is to keep towing them, I’m glad that the council has no involvement with towing companies else this would have turned into a council versus car drivers story al la the bus lanes. I do tend to think this is a storm in a teapot that will blow over. As an occasional driver I always make sure where I park is actually indicated that I can park there, assuming you can park everywhere unless indicated is your own stupidity and I have no sympathy for people getting towed.

  4. The owners of this carpark are extremely paranoid about it. I don’t know why as the shop closes at 6pm. Maybe they have had problems with people parking up and making a mess with their fast food etc. Although towing people wouldn’t help that situation out as they would have to actually be in their car to make the mess. Outside my apartment is a 24 hour tow away zone but the businesses don’t actually care so long as you don’t park during business hours so I often leave my car there all weekend when I’m feeling too lazy to park it in my allocated spot.

    1. Unpatrolled 24-hour tow-away zones are pretty common. I had a friend who lived in an apartment at the very top of Nelson Street, and if there were no available kerb-side parks in the access-way where he lived we often parked in the Rexel parking space, sometimes overnight. Never got towed, despite the signs.

      The businesses who vigorously enforce their tow-away areas even when they’re closed really puzzle me. Sure if people are making a mess it’s a cost to them, but is that mess really related to people parking their cars there, as opposed to, say, passing foot traffic? It’s not like they’re foregoing any revenue.

      The comparison above with someone parking in your driveway is only of relevance to people who occupy a business’ parking spaces during revenue-generating hours. Parking when the business is closed is more akin to someone parking in your driveway when you’re out of town: it doesn’t inconvenience you in any way, it’s just a bit rude. And I don’t buy the mess argument, given that when I was living on Market Road there was plenty of rubbish dropped at the top of our driveway by passing pedestrians. Filthy bastards those pedestrians.

      1. “The businesses who vigorously enforce their tow-away areas even when they’re closed really puzzle me.”

        It doesn’t puzzle me. They get a percentage of the takings. It’s a nice income stream.

  5. I think rigorous enforcement is from people who are just over it when it comes to illegal parking, usually because for whatever reason it is always happening during business hours. Of course, having some random victim towed at 7pm on a Sunday evening is hardly going to deter the person who who quickly parks there for twenty minutes because there are no other parks around at 2pm on a Friday afternoon, but people don’t think logically like that. They just go into total vengeance mode.

  6. Kingdon st south, newmarket. there’s always a towie waiting for preys at night in a 24h private businnes carpark that I think should really be used by the public, it’s a waste of space at night. Every time I pass they’re towing.

    1. Why not use the pay parking in the area? The issue is mainly that people think they should be able to park for free everywhere they like – if people were willing to pay the true costs of a park then perhaps private carpark owners wouldn’t have to rely on tow trucks to keep their parks clear.

  7. It’s really about people thinking they can park anywhere anytime they like. Private car parks, shared spaces, bus stops, clearways during clearway hours, median flushes (!), pedestrian crossings, intersections (!) etc. I’ve seen it all.

    Maybe we should let people park anywhere they like for a day -anywhere- and let them experience what effect that would have on traffic flows and more importantly their travelling time…

  8. There is a small town on the Isle of Wight, UK where they did away with all parking restrictions and allowed everyone to park anywhere they liked. The only restriction was that “dangerous” parkers were towed – no questions. It worked surprisingly well, with everyone parking responsibly and considerately. It was only a small tourist town however. Heaven knows what would happen in Auckland.

  9. They type of people that would park without regard to road rules would be too stupid to taken in any sort of object lesson.

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