Anytime I get mail from the SFMTA, there is only one thing the cash-strapped agency wants: My cash.
To be fair, it's money the transit agency earned, albeit not in that hard-working sort of way. So when I came home last week to discover yet another letter from the parking police -- two weeks before payday -- I was truly distressed.
But in a shocking twist of San Francisco parking karma, the transit agency's letter was a missive informing me that they owed me money for a change -- and a rather decent sum, too.
According to SFMTA parking records, I paid a $136 parking ticket twice. To claim my money all I had to do was provide my signature and wait 30 days -- which I did with the same level of aplomb I earlier applied to double-paying the ticket.
I was a bit impressed and surprised, assuming that a transit agency so crippled by budget problems would have overlooked this double payment. I would have expected the money-hungry meter maids over there to just give me credit for one free illegal parking pass at a red zone, but not cut me check. After all, it was my fault, and aren't they in the business of capitalizing on my mistakes?
I put out in a call to Kristen Holland, a Muni spokeswoman, to confirm: 1. this wasn't a Nigerian scam, and; 2. I wasn't special -- certainly other careless drivers had been equally cavalier with their checkbooks. According to Holland, the transit agency processed 9,744 refunds in fiscal 2013, amounting to $707,593. In fiscal '12, it processed 10,951 violations, returning $726,874.
Being that the SFMTA is never swimming in surplus cash, we had to ask Holland: Just how painful is it for the agency to return that much cash? "We do not budget for funds that do not belong to us, so we do not miss them when they need to be returned," Holland says. "The accounting system automatically catches overpayment, so the process is not very burdensome either."
Well, at least they're not paying someone to pay you for your overpayment.