Breaking the bad parking habit can be hard. For the longest time, anyone could park anywhere and mostly without consequences. The least from the Policia de Transito (traffic police), whose officials were powerless to move or ticket parked vehicle if (as in the most cases) the driver was not present.
But that all changed on July 17 last, when the latest reforms to the Ley de Transito (Traffic Act) allowed for ticketing and/or towing and/or confiscation of license plates of any badly parked vehicle, whether the driver was present or not.
The fine for the illegal parking is ¢51,316 colones plus court costs, and costs of the tow and storage. But, given the lack of towing units and over saturated ‘patios’ (lots) of the of the Policia de Transito, the favorite is to confiscate license plates.
The latter is the most sensible for traffic officials, though it does not remove the obstacle, the cost of the ticket and the process of recovering confiscated license plates is a lesson not to soon be forgotten.
For one, to retrieve confiscated license plates there is typically a three day wait, this is the time Ttransitos (traffic officials) have to hand over the plates to the Cosevi, the national roads safety council.
Then there are the lines, lines that can mean hours of waiting. Just to give you an idea, between July 17 (the first day of the new traffic regulations) and July 28, the Policia de Transito reports the confiscation of 1,500 pairs of license plates for bad parking alone.
Then there is the figuring out which Cosevi office do you visit to get your plates back. Not too much of a problem if the plates were confiscated in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM) and where one lives. But say the driver lives in Guanacaste or the Southern Zone where the parking law is not being that strongly enforced. How do you get back home?
Driving without license plates will usually attract the attention of Transitos. I have it on good word from a Transito I know well that the typical courtesy is up to an hour, that is you can drive the vehicle to get it home or park it somewhere. Last I checked the drive to Guanacaste, for example, is at least 3 hours.
According to the Cosevi person I spoke to, the driver can arrange to have the confiscated plates sent to the Guana office, how long it takes, it depends.
Then there are the costs. Besides the payment of the parking fine, the court costs, the vehicle needs to have the Marchamo (circulation permit) and Riteve (vehicular inspection) current. Also to be paid, before anyone gets their plates back, are outstanding traffic fines, fines against the driver and/or the vehicle.
Examples of bad parking the Transitos can now pull out their screwdrivers and pliers out are for parking in a yellow zone (you know the yellow painted curbs); blocking driveways, even if it is your own driveway; blocking a fire hydrant; parking on the sidewalk; too close to the corner, and more, all of those things that make life in San Jose especially ‘interesting’.
The best way to avoid all the above? DO NOT park illegally!
In the downtown core, there are parking lots all over, in my opinion, one of the best businesses in the entire country. An hour on Avenida 1, by Calle 5, costs ¢1,000 colones. A few blocks in every direction, you can save a few hundred colones an hour.
Do the math: ¢1,000 colones for an hour (or less) or ¢51,316 + + + + and all the frustrations for 5 minutes?
And please remember, although the focus of the Transitos is in the downtown area of San Jose, the law applies equally across the country.