Street parking in downtown Stumptown isn't the most dangerous game (unless you're still confused by those new, superwide bike lanes on Oak Street).
But every driver who tries to match wits and clocks with Portland's traffic enforcement officers and their little yellow envelopes knows it can be costly.
Here's a little-known truth about Portland parking: The small army of enforcers who generated $3.7 million in revenue last year don't start and stop with the city's pay-to-park hours.
I'd like to offer you weary street parkers a brief guide to the rules of the game.
No government secrets, just a little toolbox --five things to know about how parking enforcement in Portland works.
1. The hours officers keep. From Monday through Friday, officers are on duty from 6:15 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Saturday: 7:15 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Sunday from 10:15 a.m. to 11:45 p.m
2. The actual meter hours. Officers police hundreds of vehicles at a time. How do they keep track of any given car's time in a specific spot or block? Multifunction tablet computers.
After scanning the bar code on the side of a SmartMeter to register the location, officers walk down the block, punching in plate numbers. The little machines keep track of streets, times and sequences in which the cars are parked, which is how officers know if you're simply feeding the meter.
They also use the device to snap photos as evidence to support citations. Oh, and the gizmos print out the tickets, too. Makes cheating hard.
3. Parking tickets aren't just for downtown. Enforcement officers work with police, neighborhood associations and schools on targeted missions to change bad parking behavior around the city. And they don't discriminate.
"If you live near a school, you may have been complaining about parents parking in a bus zone or parking in your driveway," said Cheryl Kuck, a Portland Bureau of Transportation spokeswoman. "But if you're parked the wrong way on your street during a mission, you're also subject to a ticket."
4. The costliest parking tickets. Worried about parking tickets draining your bank account? Avoid these whoppers: Unlawful use of a disabled permit ($450); abandoned vehicle ($280); blocking a handicap sidewalk ramp ($150); parking in a disabled zone ($190); and using a vehicle on the street for storage ($100).
5. Perforated edges are our friends. Each receipt printed by a meter has a side piece with information about when your parking expires. Tear it off and use the adhesive to attach it to your computer monitor back at the office. Of course, it's still easy to lose track of time.
Last week, I got a ticket 10 minutes after my parking expired. Ten minutes! Twenty-four bones for the city coffers.
Well played, traffic enforcement. Well played. -- Joseph Rose; Twitter: pdxcommute