FORT WORTH — Back in February, Fort Worth started putting up new signs for commercial loading zones with 30-minute time limits.
Parking enforcement officers have been handing out warning cards to educate drivers on new loading zone rules.
Recently, the city increased the number of parking officers, and now they're handing out tickets.
Lots of them.
Tempers are rising; violating the new loading zone ordinance can be expensive.
"This is a $100 ticket?" A young waitress started to tear up as she clutched her freshly-written citation. That's a big chunk of a week's wages for a restaurant worker.
She had parked in a "commercial loading zone" for a couple of minutes to run into P.F. Chang's restaurant on Throckmorton Street. The manager said employees and carryout customers have always used the space for quick stops.
Increased loading zone enforcement should make life easier for delivery truck drivers who need the space; they can get in and out more quickly.
So we were surprised when a delivery driver rolled up and unloaded on us, and on parking officers who've been taking some heat for doing their jobs.
"They're harassing everybody down here in Fort Worth," the driver yelled over two lanes of traffic. "Nobody wants to come down here anymore. They're making it impossible for everybody to deliver. They're not helping!"
As the driver drove away, he screamed, "They're ticketing everybody!"
Scott Timberlake, the manager of P.F. Chang's, picked up the theme.
"All my vendors are getting tickets for parking in the same places when they drop stuff off for deliveries," he said. Timberlake believes strict enforcement will also hurt his carryout business. He said he'll take up the issue with city officials.
Part of the frustration stems from new rules on identifying commercial vehicles. Officials say delivery trucks must have a $75 permit or else be clearly marked with lettering in contrasting color at least 3 inches in height. The goal is to keep loading zones open so trucks won't clog up traffic lanes already squeezed by construction.
"We've given warnings; now we're actually giving tickets," said Fort Worth parking director Peter Elliott.
He said Fort Worth studied other big cities that have successfully used similar rules to improve parking, traffic and safety. Even city vehicles on non-official business will be ticketed.
In fact, one of the first tickets in the new effort was found tucked beneath the windshield wiper of Mayor Betsy Price's official vehicle.
She wasn't the driver, but she paid the ticket.