Dear City of Houston: Your Downtown Hopper Parking Pass Is Stupid

Dear City of Houston,

How's it going? You know I love you. I mean, I'm a freaking advocate! But there are plenty of things I'd like to see changed. I want more light rail. I want the constant road construction to stop. I want a flying car. You know, the simple things in life. Still, the city is great and getting better, so thanks for that.

Here's my problem: the downtown hopper. Allow me to explain to readers who are unfamiliar.

If you park downtown, the meters allow you to either purchase time by increments or get what is called a "downtown hopper." For $7, you get to park your car anywhere in downtown until the meters stop working at 6 p.m. after which parking is free. It's a pretty good deal if you need to park downtown because lots can be expensive.

But it's called a "hopper" for a reason. You have to move your car every three hours of you get a I did during All-Star weekend.

Now, city, back to you. Here's my issue with your so-called "hopper." No where on any of the signs or on the machine does it say parking is limited to two hours. I have read stories dating back to the 2009 with people suffering the same fate as me for the same reason. My poor 311 operator was overly apologetic when I called to ask the question because, apparently, it's a very common one.

How tough would it be to put up signs that say "Cars must be moved every two hours" or put text on the machine's screen saying something similar?

Yes, it does say "3hr time limit until 6pm" in TINY letters on the parking receipt, but that's it. Hell, even the plastic bags toys are wrapped in come with bigger warnings and they are just plastic bags! For my violation, I got a $30 ticket meaning I paid $37 to park by Phoenicia on a Friday afternoon. I should have just paid a lot across from Toyota Center $40 to shorten my walk.

I'm not saying you need to change the policy, but it sure does look shady that the only mention is in the fine print, particularly given the fact that others have a similar complaint. And it's made worse by the fact that the law only requires I move one space over to avoid a penalty. How ridiculous is that and how exactly does that make parking in downtown more convenient or free up space for other cars? It doesn't.

Listen, City of Houston, you do a lot right and a lot of things around here are getting better. We're even getting good publicity from New York. Who would have believed that the same place that called us a "HELLHOLE" in the early '90s would suddenly consider us cool? Sure, not Brooklyn/bicycle/farmer's market/ skinny jeans/ micro brew cool, but it's something.

So don't ruin it with stupid fine print on your parking meter receipts! We're still trying to live down the whole suburban sprawl/what to do with the Astrodome/strip mall/humidity stuff.

I'm not doing this for me. I'll pay my fine. I'm doing this for all the poor unsuspecting saps who think they can park for hours on end with impunity.

Thanks for your time, City of Houston. *hugs*

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke