A PARKAtlanta employee checks a parking meter.
On Thursday night, for at least two hours, Helen Gibson was a number.
Number 605 on Walton Street to be precise.
And like many in the city who have to deal with Park Atlanta and their 25-hundred metered spots, she wasn't too happy about it.
"It's stupid," she shrugged as she struggled to make one of the meter machines work. "It makes you later than what you are. You have to drive around in circles to find a place to park, and then once you find one it won't take your money. You're forced to use your card if you've got one. It's ridiculous. I don't like it."
She eventually convinced the machine to take her money so she could park.
But things didn't turn out so well for her neighbor, number 603. First a ticket was placed on the window, then a boot on the wheel, and finally a call was made to a tow truck, which yanked the vehicle away.
Park Atlanta says it is the worst case scenario for cars in violation. But many see it as an example of the contractor's aggressive enforcement.
So Thursday night, city and company officials met with residents of Grant Park, in the first of a series of meetings city-wide, to explain what they do and why.
"We're here tonight to listen to the needs of the community and to get to know Park Atlanta better," said local city councilwoman Carla Smith. "To let them know what's going on, so that we know what's going on, and that we all have a better understanding. It's a two way conversation."
The city admits candidly that Park Atlanta sometimes does its job too well. But with a year of re-tooling and grace periods, it's now time for motorists to do their part too.
"We rolled out a pretty drastic change with this program, and it was a change that many people were not prepared for," said Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza. "And in retrospect, I think that we could have done a better job at messaging what the program is about and what the benefit of the program is about."
Park Atlanta has been so unpopular, there's even a Facebook page and Twitter account dedicated to abolishing it, complete with horror stories from those who feel they've been unfairly ticketed. But there are also supporters, especially among residents who want the patrols expanded into their neighborhoods. That's the momentum the city wants to build on with the town hall meetings.
"More education, more outreach reminding folks what Parking 101," said Commissioner Mendoza. "And of course, as you move along situations change, environments change, and we want to adapt and change with it as well."