It’s one of those things mothers are always reminding us: Save your receipts.
It turns out, that’s really good advice.
Starts & Stops readers wrote in last month to complain about violation notices they had received from MBTA parking lots for alleged wrongdoings that stretched as far back as 2010. The T offered a 30-day amnesty period: Pay the parking ticket’s original price, plus a small processing fee if paying by phone or via the Internet, and avoid hefty late fines.
Some readers were leery of the notices, thinking they were part of a scam and not really from the state. Others thought it was unfair that the T could send a bill for a parking violation so far in the past.
And there were a lot of them. The T sent just over 27,000 and so far have received back about 3,000 appeals — just over 10 percent.
A T spokeswoman said customers who chose to appeal have sent in copies of vehicle registrations showing that the license plate does not match the plate number listed on the ticket. Additionally, they have forwarded e-mails from Parkmobile, the smart phone app, and LAZ Parking that said tickets would be dismissed.
Starts readers wrote in with their own tactics.
Sharlene Begley of Lakeville was able to dispute a ticket with an old e-mail she found from LAZ Parking, the company that manages the parking lot she uses when commuting into Boston. In March 2012, she had paid her parking fee with a check, but she still received a ticket on her windshield. She complained to LAZ Parking — showing them a copy of her check — and received an e-mail saying they would remove the parking violation from the record.
“As luck would have it, I do have that e-mail,” she said.
John Dabrowski of Burlington found similar evidence in his e-mail inbox.
He was accused in the notice he received with skipping out on a parking payment on Jan. 12, 2012. But Dabrowski has a parking pass e-mailed to him that covers Jan. 1 to Jan. 31 of that year.
He remembers seeing a ticket at the time.
“I also called in and complained about this erroneous ticket . . . . and the company that runs the lot told me they would void it,” Dabrowski said. “So it is doubly annoying to see it turning up again.
“What this shows is sloppy work on the part of the MBTA in cooordinating their permitting department with the contractors who run the Commuter Rail parking lots,” he continued. “The MBTA has in its computer system the records of the monthly permits, and yet they don’t require their parking lot operators to double-check against these records when issuing tickets.
Others had success with their cellphone apps serving as a sort of black box. One reader said his mobile app showed that he paid for parking on five of the six days for which he had received violations.
A few commuters wrote in to say they were planning on appealing even if they had no proof to defend their claim that they were wrongly ticketed.
“I actually keep track of my transportation expenses and looked up each date,” wrote one commuter rail customer. “My notes showed I paid the fee.”
The commuter’s personal notes are not incontrovertible proof, she acknowledged, and she expected that her appeal would be denied. But, as many commuters have discovered, the T cannot provide copies of the parking tickets that sparked the violation notices.
“I guess my point is that they don’t have any proof either,” the reader wrote.
Amtrak’s cushy return policy is about to get a little less cushy.
Up until now, Amtrak has offered fairly generous reimbursements for customers who rode business class on the Acela or coach on non-Acela trains: If the ticket was sold as a “Value” fare, it was fully refundable up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure from the route’s origin. If they canceled less than 24 hours ahead of time — and in many cases, if they “no-showed” to the train — riders could recoup their full fare minus a 10 percent fee, and 100 percent of their fare if they opted for an eVoucher that required them to use the money for another train ticket.
The company announced last week that starting March 1, travelers must cancel their tickets more than 24 hours before the train departs from its origin in order for them to receive a full refund. With less than 24 hours’ notice, customers will have to pay a fee — eVoucher or not — and if they “no-show,” they will receive no reimbursement.
“This change is being driven by a need to better manage our inventory and to be able to provide seats for customers who need to purchase at the last minute,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole in a statement. “We believe that by encouraging customers to let us know in advance that they are not going to travel on their scheduled train, we will be able to make more seats available for customers who need to purchase at the last minute.”
Which makes sense.
But given the sky-high prices of an Acela to Penn Station, pity the poor soul who gets stuck in Boston’s notorious traffic and arrives at South Station just after a train’s departure.
Tweet the traffic
In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, next week’s Starts & Stops column will focus on our favorite traffic gripes and simple solutions — all Tweet-sized, which, for the social media uninitiated, means 140 characters or less. Got an intersection you think is particularly hairy and a cogent idea on how it can be fixed? Send it to email@example.com, or Tweet @martinepowers. Accompanying cellphone photos and short videos are particularly welcome!