Parking in Hungary

I can't believe that I'm writing about parking in Budapest because I'm sick and tired of the topic. When György Bolgár includes "parking" among his topics of the day, one can be sure that 90% of the callers will talk about it. And not just talk about it but talk about it at length. They never fail to include a detailed description of all the wrongs they suffered. After the complaints usually comes an interview with a lawyer who represents thousands of car owners who bitterly complain about fines. I must say that for a while I had no sympathy for those "wronged" because some of the stories simply didn't ring true. Or at least not to my ears. How is it possible that the complaining car owner claims that for two or three years he received no notice about the fine he had to pay but now suddenly he is confronted with a huge late fee? Moreover, the story usually continues, he doesn't even remember parking on such and such a street. Oh, give me another one, I said to myself. That's impossible! I know how inventive Hungarians can be when caught. Moreover, I still hear complaints: "and what about if someone is late and has a dentist's appointment…" Indeed, what about it?  It sounded to me as if this explanation was supposed to be enough to deem the parking ticket illegitimate. I don't think I will ever forget the story of the Hungarian doctoral candidate studying in the United states who bitterly complained that the heartless American policeman was not moved by his explanation that his landlady's clock was slow!

Another reason for my lack of sympathy was that I'm accustomed to a well organized system of parking meters that are checked periodically by the "meter maids," employees of the police department. If they spot one with the red flag saying "expired" the car is ticketed. As I just found out, the city of New Haven has 2,600 parking meters and by now each is equipped with a slot for a smart card. Smart cards ranging in value from $20 to $300 can be purchased on the internet. Each meter shows the maximum time limit: some allow you stay there for twelve hours, others for as little as fifteen minutes. Depending on the location. Here is one of these meters.New Haven parking meter There are also more stringent rules and regulations that may involve towing one's car away. There are several streets which during rush hour are extremely busy and therefore between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. parking is not allowed. And the authorities are not joking. The towing companies that have a contract with the city arrive about fifteen minutes before the hour; at 4 o'clock on the dot they start towing! In five minutes all the cars are gone. The owner then has to phone the police department to find out where his car is. The tow company charges the owner $77 for towing and $20 a day after the first 24 hours for storage; I have no idea what the ticket itself costs. Moreover, if your car was towed for a serious violation or outstanding parking tickets, you must pay your tickets before you can claim your car. If you owe outstanding taxes, you must obtain a tax release to claim your car.

Well, in Budapest parking is a little more complicated. The fault lies, I think, on both sides. First, there is no central parking authority in the city. Each district, and there are twenty-three of them, handles parking independently and uniquely. It can easily happen that the rules that apply on the right hand of the street are not the same as those that apply on the left. Second, in Budapest they love using "wheel clamping" or, as it's called in the United States, "booting." In the U.S. cars are booted primarily to force payment of outstanding parking tickets. But not in Budapest. For an ordinary parking violation the authorities apply a wheel clamp. This practice is actually counterproductive as István Tarlós, Budapest head of the Fidesz delegation, rightly pointed out because the illegally parked vehicle stays even longer in the spot. Here is one from a Budapest street.Kerekbilincs This guy obviously overstayed his allotted time  curbside. Once his car's wheel is clamped no one else can park in that spot for a while. By the way, one has to pay 14,400 forints before they release the car from bondage. This sum is over and above the fine the owner has to pay for his original sin. Some people claim that this practice might be unconstitutional.

Here I will concentrate on wheel clamping because the latest corruption case involves this practice. For reasons only the Budapest city fathers could explain, if at all, there is a central Fővárosi Közterület-felügyelet (Capital Public Domain Superintendent's Office). Normally this office does the clamping and the private parking companies the districts hired take the clamps off. Such an arrangement can easily lead to corruption. Especially if the district maintains its own public domain superintendent's office as was the case in District VI (Terézváros). If a district opts for that arrangement, the central superintendent's office has no jurisdiction over the office in the district. In District VI the private parking company, Centrum, was in cahoots with the superintendent's office. Depending on the number of clampings, Centrum kicked back to the head of the office approximately half a million forints a month. Thus, the more clamping the more money for Centrum and the more money under the table for the superintendent of public domains. I might add that the government in District VI is among the few where the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition is in charge. The District government and Centrum go back quite a way: one of Centrum's earlier CEOs was György Fürst, who also had a political career. For a number of years he was a member of the local MSZP delegation and between 2002 and 2006 he was one of the vice-mayors in the district. For the time being no one is picking up the telephone at Centrum. The superintendent of public domains was arrested in the middle of a transaction.

MDF has been very suspicious of Centrum for the last two years. In the summer of 2007 the party suggested setting up a parliamentary committee to investigate its affairs. Nothing came of it because the government parties claimed that this was a city matter and it didn't belong to the central government. Centrum, by the way, has contracts with six different districts. The suspicion is that if the company was paying off city officials in District VI then it is possible that similar corruption cases occurred elsewhere as well. To tell you the truth, I'm not at all surprised that Centrum took advantage of this situation. The opportunity was right there. One authority puts the clamps on while another takes them off. The more they put on the more must be taken off at 14,400 Ft. a clip.

Even before the wheel clamping case came to light the ombudsman, Máté Szabó, complained about Centrum. He announced that when Centrum gives a ticket it should also take a photo to prove the legality of the ticket! Surely, there are simpler, easier solutions. Like a few thousand parking meters and smart cards. When the meter says "expired" the meter maid can ticket the car.Ticket On it is everything one needs to know. Time, place, amount of the fine. How difficult it is to collect is another matter. But one thing is sure: one cannot wait for years before a second notice. Centrum was not doing its job. Or rather, besides taking clamps off, I don't think they do much. For example, they hired a collection agency to try to get payment for fines years overdue. My feeling is that outsourcing parking is a very bad idea. Centrum, for example, claims that 45% of its profit goes back to the districts it works for. A lot of people doubt the veracity of this claim. Most likely they rob the districts blind while giving kickbacks to corrupt officials.  Parking in Budapest should be centralized just as there shouldn't be twenty-three different district governments. However, changing the setup needs Fidesz support in parliament. Fidesz has refused until now to cooperate. If they manage to get a two-thirds majority it's possible that they will be willing to move in that direction, although rationalization of city governments most likely would hurt a lot of special interests including those of Fidesz.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Geo
Guest

Great photo !!!
City of New Haven parking ticket in Budapest???

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Geo: “City of New Haven parking ticket in Budapest???”
I haven’t got the foggiest what tickets look like in different Budapest districts. I am simply suggesting one like this for the parking authorities in Budapest.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Professor in your piece you say about the use of the ‘Denver boot’:- * “Some people claim that this practice might be unconstitutional.”! Actually it probably is. Some organisation in the U.K. recently won a case in the High Court in London on the grounds that ‘Booting’ was illegal under three articles of the Charter of Human Rights. The articles are:-Articles 17, 47 and 48. The last one Article 48 was the one that really got both the Barrister for the Plaintive, who was I think a QC, and the Judge ‘going’. I do not think that will be the end of the matter, the local councils, who were the losers, will have to go to the ‘House of Lords’ and then to the European Court as there is too much money involved.
By the way you if you really want can buy your own ‘boot’ and clamp yourself, putting you own fake parking ticket on your windscreen I will not go on as I smell a business opportunity for someone here.

Bob
Guest

We are moving to the UK !
Booting is still legal in the police state, called US.

Nikolas
Guest

Hello There,
We just got a fine in budapest for overtiming. We thought that on friday the parking is until 18.00 but on our surprise we found a red bag on saturday which said that we got the fine on 18.57 (the ticket is completely in hungary so we didnt have a clue what is written on. We just assume that the 18.57 ment the time when the “maid” gave as the fine.
Now they want from us to pay 4400 HUF in 5 days, if we pay later it goes to 12400 HUF.
currently we left hungary and i am just curious what do you suggest me to do? I dont know what is the fine in EUR exactly And i cannot even get out where to send the money…
any ideas?
thank you and greetings,
Nick

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Nick: “I dont know what is the fine in EUR exactly And i cannot even get out where to send the money… any ideas? thank you and greetings, Nick
You poor thing. The fine is 16.50 euros at the moment. You’re no longer in Hungary? I hate to sound dishonest but under the circumstances I would do absolutely nothing.

cheap louis vuitton
Guest

It sounded to me as if this explanation was supposed to be enough to deem the parking ticket illegitimate. I don’t think I will ever forget the story of the Hungarian doctoral candidate studying in the United states who bitterly complained that the heartless American policeman was not moved by his explanation that his landlady’s clock was slow!

cheap louis vuitton
Guest

Here I will concentrate on wheel clamping because the latest corruption case involves this practice. For reasons only the Budapest city fathers could explain, if at all, there is a central Fővárosi Közterület-felügyelet (Capital Public Domain Superintendent’s Office). Normally this office does the clamping and the private parking companies the districts hired take the clamps off. Such an arrangement can easily lead to corruption. Especially if the district maintains its own public domain superintendent’s office as was the case in District VI (Terézváros).

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Nicolas – have a look at the European Statute of Human Rights Article 6 section 3a. I will not quote it but it tells you what your accusers must do. If they do not then the charge is null and void!
m

Ron
Guest

Nikolas: Under EU regulation any original fine under EUR 75 will not be collected abroad. With regard to, for example, speeding fines over EUR 75 in Western European countries committed by a CEE licence plate car will not be collected as the d-base do not match. They are working on it, so take most of it now.

christine
Guest

i just got a fine from a UK company collecting the money for the Hungarian Parking Authority. I overstayed my parking time and got a nice little red envelope on my windshield. apparently the fine went up from the minimum of a few euros to over 80eur. what annoys me the most is that my personal data is being provided to a UK company. are there no data protection laws in europe???

GDF
Guest

christine:”i just got a fine from a UK company collecting the money for the Hungarian Parking Authority. I overstayed my parking time and got a nice little red envelope on my windshield. apparently the fine went up from the minimum of a few euros to over 80eur. what annoys me the most is that my personal data is being provided to a UK company. are there no data protection laws in europe???”
Apparently not, for those who break the law ;-)).

wpDiscuz