District rings up millions in parking ticket revenue

The District’s efficient corps of parking meter enforcement officers are raking in revenue for the cash-strapped city at a dizzying rate this year.

Their parking tickets reap $1.5 million a week, or $219,000 a day, or $450 a minute or $8 a second, according to the folks at AAA, who are fond of dissecting numbers like the overall $80 million in ticket revenue last year.

The numbers are up sharply this year, AAA said, with more than $50 million collected by May.

“The District government is prolific in its parking-ticket-writing prowess. Few do it better than the District because public parking is very limited in the city,” said John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Townsend said the city’s 204 parking enforcement officers issued nearly 1.8 million parking tickets during fiscal 2010 and had given out 1.1 million this year as of May 20.

AAA filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the District to obtain the information.

Townsend said that, unlike in many other cities, people who fight parking tickets in the District have a reasonable chance of success. He said that hearing examiners at the Department of Motor Vehicles dismissed 43 percent of tickets in 2010 and had tossed out 47 percent of the 89,068 contested tickets as of May this year.

A survey by AAA of the nation’s large cities found that many are turning to parking revenue to bolster shrinking budgets.

“More cities, including the District, have increased or plan to increase parking fees and meter rates to balance their budgets, and it has created a backlash from residents, motorists and business owners, who see such hikes as another onerous tax,” Townsend said.

Philadelphia, with 14,500 on-street metered parking spaces and 17,000 off-street parking slots, recently raised its rates by 50 cents an hour.

Pittsburgh is increasing its hourly on-street parking meter rates from $2 to $3 in the downtown area and from 50 cents to $1 in other locations.

But AAA found that parking and ticket revenue hasn’t been a gold mine everywhere.

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency had projected $99 million from parking ticket revenue for the fiscal year. Instead, it collected $11.6 million less than expected.

A Revenue Department official in Chicago said the number of tickets issued during the first seven months of 2010 dropped to about 642,000, from more than 850,000 the previous year.

The District DMV is offering a ticket amnesty program that allows drivers to pay old parking tickets without penalties. The ticket amnesty program is scheduled to continue until Jan. 27. In the first two weeks of the program, which began Aug. 1, the District collected $393,647 from 7,400 old tickets.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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