Parking ploy roils Canton

Getting There reader Jeff Hossfeld touched off a mini-furor recently when he reported a parking practice that appears to be prevalent in the otherwise civilized enclave of Canton.

Once posted to the Getting There blog, the report attracted a volley of comments, pro and con, from readers. I'll let Hossfeld describe the deed that provokes such controversy:

Many folks in Canton that own two cars are taking to the habit of driving one car out of a parking spot, and then slightly moving their other car to a position in such a way that it reserves two spots until the first car comes back. This is essentially "saving" a spot. Is there any recourse for this? Could this be called into 311 in order to have these folks ticketed and even so, is there any way to prove it? I don't hear about this problem in other cities with lots of parallel parking, so I don't understand why it's happening here.

Maybe I've been living outside the city too long, but this ploy was unfamiliar to me. It certainly raised the question of whether it was legal.

In all probability, yes.

Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said that if lines are painted on the street to mark off parking spaces, a motorist whose vehicle doesn't stay within the lines can receive a $32 ticket. However, she said, if there are no lines, there might be no violation unless the car is otherwise parked illegally.

But just because a tactic might pass legal muster, that doesn't make it right. That was the prevailing view of Getting There readers. (Because I wasn't able to get the OK to use full names, commenters will be identified as they were on the blog.)

Chris from Brooklyn reported that the practice occurs in other neighborhoods, too.

Many times we've had to park around the corner from our house (about 100 yards away). On our block alone, one could fit 10-15 more cars in, if people would park as they were supposed to.

The obvious solution would be for the city to paint parking spaces. Of course, that would have to come after repainting crosswalks, lane markers, etc. — and it would require parking enforcement to come to South Baltimore to write tickets. Somehow, I just can't picture it.

Matt from Fells Point reports that his neighborhood is infested.

You clearly see folks together, they each get in their cars, one pulls away and the other pulls forward or backward reserving the two spaces. Even after adding spaces on Bank Street, parking after 8 p.m. is terrible in the area, apparently worse in the last few months.

Baltimore Chop reported that in her north Baltimore neighborhood, "people will actually move their cars just to create a spot."

It's called being neighborly, Hon. Conversely, if you know who's doing it, ask them to stop. If they do it again, slash their tires. Seriously.

Bruce from Parkville said the two-car shuffle isn't confined to the city limits.

I have observed my neighbors doing this exact same thing to reserve the prime spots right in front of their house. It's annoying and I don't think there's anything that can be done about it.

Adrian from Mount Vernon said he witnessed the plan in action in his neighborhood during the second blizzard last February.

One of the drivers involved was explaining the wonderful system to anyone who would listen (or who, like me, was busy shoveling and simply couldn't avoid the chatter), while the other was busy demonstrating the tactic by moving the second car back into place.

I thought about shoveling all the snow from my car onto their cars, especially as they stood there.

Ortega advocated what could be called the Mexican Gambit:

The solution to this problem is a #10 can of nacho cheese from a warehouse club. For $6 you can coat a car with cheesy goodness.

Some readers proudly defended the practice. Canton Porky Parker wrote:

Me and the wife partake in this all the time, as it's the only way to ensure a parking spot in the area if one of us is expected home after 8 p.m. After driving around for 45 minutes one night, and not wanting to move out of the city due to the awful parking, this is what it's come to. Not dastardly to my neighbors, but perhaps to the people who flock to the bars at night then drive drunk home.

CP from Canton was no more apologetic:

I'll admit, I've been a culprit of this "dastardly deed" and don't feel bad in the least bit. I don't have 2 cars, but if someone wants to visit after 7:30 pm on any given night it's near impossible to find parking. so, I will take up two spots until my guest arrives. It's the ONLY way.

There needs to be a parking garage in Canton just for the residents of the neighborhood. Instead of building more houses and adding to the problem, they should build a garage we can all benefit from.

Having heard both sides, I'll withdraw my earlier description of the practice as "dastardly." But it still kind of, well, stinks.

There are trade-offs to urban living, and one is the need to accommodate neighbors in a sporting manner. Hogging two parking spaces to reserve one of them is poor civic etiquette — much like hanging out a Steelers banner on Ravens game day.

But it isn't an offense that cries out for vandalism as a solution. Karma will catch up with the offenders. Just wait.

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