Providence, Rhode Island does not allow overnight parking on most of its public streets. I’ve traveled a bit throughout New England and encountered a few other cities that have the same policy. The difference is that the other cities have large signs everywhere to make sure drivers are aware of the law.
Providence has no such signs, meaning that out-of-town visitors literally have no way of knowing they’re not allowed to park on the street, until they receive a ticket. Is this overnight parking ban just a big scam?
Providence Overnight Parking: My battle with the city of Providence
When I spent an evening in Providence last summer, I parked on a residential street next to a sign that said “No Parking 8am – 10am.” Imagine my surprise when I woke up at 7 to move my vehicle and saw a $20 parking ticket on my windshield. This doesn’t make sense, I thought. It’s not 8 am yet!
The ticket was issued at 4:50 am and the alleged violation was ambiguous. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong. I did some online research and discovered that overnight street parking is banned in the entire city of Providence.
My initial reaction was, Where were the signs? I’d passed through a few other cities that also ban overnight parking, like Beverly Hills and a couple small Northeast towns, and all of those cities posted very obvious signs indicating that overnight parking was banned. Providence had no signs. In fact, the sign I parked right next to said “No parking 8am-10am.” If parking was also banned overnight, why wouldn’t the sign say “No parking 12am-10am”?
I called the Providence parking authority to inquire about this issue. The woman confirmed that overnight parking was banned. I asked her where the signs were. She said there are no signs. No signs? Right. Then how was I supposed to know overnight parking was banned? She had no answer, except to inform me that I could challenge the citation by appearing in Providence court. I felt like the victim of a scam.
I wasn’t going to delay the rest of my trip to hang around Providence and fight some bogus ticket, so I simply refused to pay. I fired off a letter to the authority that read in part: “I strongly suspect that Providence’s overnight parking ban exists merely as a method of extorting money from unsuspecting out-of-towners like myself. I refuse to pay money for violating an ordinance that I couldn’t possibly have known existed.”
Not surprisingly, I have not received a response. Legally, the city could now sue me if it wanted, but if that happens I suspect the issue would turn into a public relations nightmare for them. The city of Providence will not see one penny from me, ever.
Providence Overnight Parking: Resident complaints
Further research reveals that some Providence residents are furious about the overnight ban and have been working to have it repealed. Others criticize the enforcement of the ban.
It’s gratifying that the city’s own residents oppose the ban. But all of that is little consolation for those who find themselves on the receiving end of parking citations.
Providence Overnight Parking: Summary
My complaint is that Providence attempts to ban vehicles on streets overnight without posting signage. Some folks in Providence think the overnight parking ban itself is pointless, signs or no signs, but I don’t know the city well enough to have an opinion on that. Maybe there are issues with traffic around the airport or hotels or just a general lack of garages downtown. I don’t know all the issues in play. I just know the lack of signage is unfair and quite possibly an intentional act. Yes, I’ll even go so far as to call it a scam.
Providence Overnight Parking: Sources