It's certainly happened to all of us at one point or another. You've fed the meter, but you misjudged the time you'd need. Or you realize you're fresh out of quarters, and you'll only be a few minutes anyways, and how can they really watch every meter in the city at the same time?
And then on the way back to your car, you catch that woeful glimpse of bright orange on your windshield. Boom. You were caught. Now you owe the city $40.
But this weekend, there's a silver lining to those parking tickets. Through the annual Toys for Tickets program which runs in Boston from Thursday, Nov. 29 to Saturday, Dec. 1, any non-public safety parking ticket you receive you can get out of by donating a new toy to the city's annual toy drive.
“Toys for Tickets has been a hugely successful part of the city’s annual toy drive," Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement. "By offering those who have received a parking ticket a chance to give back to the community, we’ve created a positive experience for both the ticket payer and a Boston child in need this holiday season.”
The program began back in 1993, to aid the city's annual toy drive. During the 2011 holiday season, 119 parking tickets were resolved with toys that valued approximately $3,800.
The donated toys are distributed to families in need throughout Boston’s neighborhoods through a variety of programs, according to a spokesperson from the mayor's office.
"People are encouraged to drop off toys even if they don’t have a ticket," said Emilee Ellison, spokesperson for Mayor Menino. "Additionally, having an outstanding parking ticket certainly will not prevent anyone from participating in the campaign. In past years, we’ve had people donate simply because the drop-off location was convenient for them and they wanted to make sure that the toy would go to a local child in need."
This particular year, Ellison said there is a demonstrated need for warm clothing, in addition to toys. Items such as coats, hats and gloves are all welcome.
"Boston drivers routinely express to us their pleasure in having this opportunity to contribute to a charity while paying their bill at the same time," Ellison said. "In addition, some drivers choose to donate in excess of the original fine amount that is required when participating in this campaign."
The Fine Print
The nitty-gritty of the deal is that you must present a new toy, including the receipt, and the cost must be equal or greater to the ticket fine.
Tickets for public safety hazards will not be elligible for the program. These include: parking in a handicapped space, blocking a fire hydrant, fire lane, crosswalk, double parking, parking less than 20 feet from an intersection and parking in a "no stopping/standing" area.
Then, you must take your ticket, receipt and toy to one of three different locations where tickets can be exchanged for toys this year:
BTD Mobile Command Center, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 1, intersection of Washington and Milk streets, Downtown Crossing
- Saturday, Dec. 8, Samuel Adams Statue at Faneuil Hall Plaza
BTD Tow Lot, 200 Frontage Road (Parking Available)
- Weekdays, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Office of the Parking Clerk, Room 224, City Hall
- Weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.