Philadelphia Parking Authority Boots Widow’s Car Over 23-Year-Old Tickets

You can run. You can hide. But one day, when you least expect it, the PPA will find you.


Bucks County’s Judi Space had to come to Center City last week to meet with her estate attorney, since her husband passed away suddenly in December.

She decided to make a day of it.

Space met her cousin for lunch near Washington Square. She visited with her daughter. And when she returned to her car, parked perfectly legally at 21st Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Space was shocked to find that it had been booted by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

The boot made absolutely no sense to Space, who couldn’t even remember the last time she received a parking ticket in Philadelphia. “I thought that it had to be some sort of mistake,” says Space.

So she pulled out her cell phone and called the phone number listed on the PPA’s boot form, which was attached to her window. “They told me that the car was booted because of unpaid parking tickets from 1991,” says Space. “It was a nightmare.”

In point of fact, Space had a total of six unpaid parking tickets, according to the PPA. There were five from 1991 and one from 1993, with original fines ranging from $15 to $25. A 2006 ticket that Space received for an expired meter was paid within 10 days of its issuance. So, Space’s car was booted due to parking tickets that were more than two decades old. Wilson Goode was still the mayor when she received most of them.

Space doesn’t deny receiving the tickets way back when she was in her late 30s. But she does say that whatever tickets she got, she paid them in full. She argued with the PPA representative over the phone. “‘Show us some proof,’ they told me,” Space remembers. “I said, ‘Nobody keeps their records for that long.’ And they said, ‘Some people do.'”

Space realized that if she wanted to get home to Bucks County, she’s was going to have to pay the fines. At the PPA representative’s instructions, she tried to use an automated system to pay with a credit card, but the system wouldn’t recognize the record number that the rep gave her. (Of course it wouldn’t.) She called back to speak with a live person, who told her she would have to go down to that soul-sucking black hole of inhumanity and injustice: the PPA Violations Branch on Filbert Street.

“I felt like I fell down an evil rabbit hole into some bureaucratic nightmare,” says Space. “Did you ever see the movie Brazil? It was like that.”

A friendly cop she stopped to tell of her plight offered to drive her to Filbert Street. “While we were in his car,” she says, “he told me that the Parking Authority has trucks that roam around, scanning license plates to find people with outstanding tickets.” (Brazil, indeed. The PPA does have those trucks, and they scan plates of parked cars, whether or not those cars are parked illegally. In Space’s case, she’s had the same license plate since those old tickets were issued.)

Once at the Filbert Street location, Space explained that she wanted to pay to have the boot removed but that she also wanted to fight the tickets. “If you pay, you are are admitting guilt,” she says she was told. “So I handed over my credit card. I was in tears. It’s a legalized robbery mill.” Space paid the PPA $483 in fines and fees.

A few hours later, the PPA removed the boot, and Space made her way home. “I sobbed for hours,” she says. “What would someone do who doesn’t have $500 to pay?”

Whether or not Space ever paid the original tickets back in the early ’90s, surely the statute of limitations has run out, right?

After all, the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for rape is 12 years. And if you burn down someone’s house (assuming you don’t hurt anyone inside) or kidnap someone’s child (assuming you don’t take them across state lines), you cannot be prosecuted after five years.

So there’s absolutely no conceivable way that it’s legal for the PPA to nail a person for some measly parking tickets more than two decades after those tickets were issued, right? Please, please, please. Tell me that is correct.


According to PPA spokesperson Martin O’Rourke, the term “statute of limitations” doesn’t even apply to these PPA matters, because the PPA is simply trying to collect a debt that was determined to be valid long ago. (Never mind that a full-fledged bankruptcy disappears from your credit report in seven to 10 years.)

O’Rourke says that there is a city ordinance that places a cap of 10 years on the PPA’s collection efforts. But — and this is a very big but — that cap doesn’t apply when the person in question is listed as a “chronic offender” or scofflaw, which is defined as anyone who owes more than $500 or has three or more outstanding tickets. And Space fell neatly into that category.

“I have always been a true lover of Philadelphia,” she insists. “But I think the love affair is over.” Space says that a friend suggested that she take the PPA to Small Claims Court to which I say, DO IT. Meanwhile, I think the PPA owes Space a refund. What do you think?

POLL Should the PPA Refund Her $483?

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • PPAwatch

    The hypocrites at the PPA are the worst offenders in the city. Be sure to check our photos on Twitter @PPAwatch.

  • tonyb

    Maybe the ruthless PPA should be in charge of collecting the city’s real estate taxes.

  • PlanAhead

    This is why, if you’re a ticket-attracting sort of person, you shouldn’t just transfer your old plates to each new car you buy.

    • Frankie

      I get new plates everytime I get a new car!

  • AmbientDin

    towed and auctioned our Landcruiser over tickets from 1992 even though
    as a resident and business we had a variance placard(I had some proof of
    spoliation). They alleged we had 5500 in tickets . Auctioned truck for
    2200 after not letting me into hearing OR auction. Then sent me a bill
    for towing and the difference. Now derogatorily represented on my credit
    report for 3300. The PPA and BAA are real sweethearts. This is of course, after we lost our home and business and all physical assets to a member of organized crime in Old City. One might say that as a business owner and resident of Philadelphia for 20 years, I have come to realize that it is essentially broken, corrupt and very dirty.

  • Anne Smith

    I was once issued a parking ticket when I had not even been in the city. Error on the part of the ticketing person. This is wrong.

    • Paul Erna

      We know you were in the city and we know what you were doing

  • Frankie

    The PPA did the very same thing to me…on a Friday afternoon…a week before Christmas! Terrorists! I admit to two of the tickets, but the others were not my car! I park now in a garage or lot.

    • lb

      I ALWAYS garage park…………I will do anything to NEVER give a penney to the PPA. Give it to a honest business!

      • Tara G.

        A lot of those garages and lots are owned by PPA.

  • Gilby

    Maybe if people parked legally or paid their tickets from when they were parked illegally, this wouldn’t be an issue!

    • lb

      You obviously have never parked in cc!

    • Pete

      Maybe you didn’t read the article.

    • cdelury

      I 100% agree. i live in philly, and go to center city pretty often. yes, the PPA should handle payment differently; it should not feel like you’ve entered some evil twilight zone; however, If you PAY the ticket WHEN YOU GET IT, you won’t have this problem. i have no sympathy for drivers who get legally issued tickets. we should be responsible for our own actions, or suffer the consequences

      • ddh

        You really have to be kidding, after 20+ years. This is nothing short of extortion, and you certainly can’t tell me that mistakes never happen. A misplaced digit in a computer could really mess up someone’s life, and there really doesn’t seem to be any way to fight it without giving up your vehicle, at least for some time. Any you’d have to pay the bastards for storage if you did that. It’s a no-win situation.

  • linda

    Happened to me too! I know I paid my tickets! I live in CC and have to pay tickets……I HATE the PPA — they extort money from the public! ……They Must be stopped! Every business owner in Phila should protest! I considered moving – but, I’m not going to let them “bully” me into moving out of my home…..and If I moved — I would never come back into the city………they ticket illegally too! It’s their word against yours — and they’re always right! They hurt business. They hurt Philadelphia’s image. They are corrupt. They laugh, as they know they can get away with taking your money. Why do they take a percentage of the taxi income?? They should not be in charge of anything!……….Or, direct the money they collect to charity…….The PPA is not a charity!

  • Danielle

    This is awful!!!! She just lost her husband suddenly less than a month ago. She most certainly didn’t need this piled onto her plate! How disgusting.

    • Paul Erna

      Sad but there is no way they knew she lost her husband

  • Julie

    This is just so wrong on so many levels. No one keeps records/receipts for this long! Judi Space… THANK YOU for bringing this to light!

  • Howard Pitkow

    Thank you for pursuing this Victor. The PPA needs to be exposed for what they do. Judi Space did not deserve to be treated like a criminal. I hope that she does decide to sue them when she feels she is ready. Of course we all know that there is probably a statute of limitations so she better hurry up.

    • Nina

      This needs to get out on local radio too!!!

  • bloodsuckers

    They are a bunch of goons working for a corrupted government.
    I left the city of Blooderly Love in 1981 and you couldn’t pay me to come back

  • Rich-D

    Unfortunately, there is no statute of limitation on the collection of a levied fine!

  • SCAM

    I will never go to Philly again over a parking ticket scam. I paid to park, I was within the proper time and in a proper spot. Some rat gave me a ticket stating I didn’t pay even though my receipt was on my dash. Than when I appealed the “officer” said I wasn’t in a proper parking spot. SCAM the “officer” didn’t even write the correct make of my vehicle. SCAM Karma to the “officer”-

  • Rob

    I don’t feel sorry for this lady. She came into Philly from her nice wide-open Bucks County and conveniently utlized Philly’s congested streets to park her car, but apparently parked illegally several times. Why wouldn’t you keep proof of FIVE paid tickets, knowing that you’ve had the same license plate for over 20 years?

  • But she owed $483.00 and the ticket was 23 years old. And she STILL got a boot. Ridiculous!!