“Parking is always difficult during Gasparilla weekend,” said Kyle Cockream, Executive Director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, the organization that regulates for-hire vehicles, which includes towing companies that handle illegal parking situations. “If you are going to park downtown or in South Tampa this weekend, make sure you pay attention to your surroundings and only park in public lots.”
Here are some tips from the Public Transportation Commission, which often acts as the middleman between tow companies and Hillsborough County residents if there are questions about whether a vehicle was legitimately towed.
How to avoid getting towed:
1. Don’t park in a business’ parking lot if you are not patronizing that business.
2. If you are parking in a staffed lot, get a receipt.
3. If you park in a lot with an honor box, videotape or take a photo of yourself paying, so you have proof.
4. Do not block anyone’s driveway or business entrance when parking.
What to do if your vehicle has been towed:
1. To find out where your vehicle is, look for a sign on the lot that lists the tow company, or call the law enforcement agency for your area. When you pick up your vehicle, make sure you bring proof of ownership with registration and driver’s license. (If your registration is in the vehicle, you can get it out of the vehicle when you arrive at the tow lot.)
2. Pick up your vehicle between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Otherwise, you will be required to pay a gate fee of $50.
3. If you were towed from a parking lot, check to see if tow-away signs were posted at all entrances and exits. If that wasn’t the case, it is not a legitimate tow.
4. If the tow truck driver did not take photos of your violation, you may be able to get some or all of your money back. Tow truck drivers are required to have proof of the violation.
If you think you were wrongfully towed or charged incorrectly, the Public Transportation Commission can help. The PTC, which is funded by the companies it regulates, oversees for-hire transportation in Hillsborough County to promote consumer protection and safe rides for the public.