“When it comes to the sheer number of parking tickets written each day and the overall amount of parking ticket fines collected, the District of Columbia is the envy of cities large and small around the country,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA.
Townsend calculated that the District takes in an average of $370,000 in parking fines every working day of the year.
“If the city were to stack the amount of parking fines collected in single dollar bills, it would nearly reach to the average altitude that a commercial airliner flies above the surface of the Earth,” Townsend said.
The District took in $31 million in parking fines in the first four months of the current fiscal year, Townsend said, predicting that a new revenue record would be set this year.
District parking enforcement officers issued 1.6 million tickets in fiscal 2011, up from 1.54 million the previous year.
Linda Grant of the District Department of Public Works said there’s no mystery about why ticket revenue went up by $12 million.
“More people paid their tickets,” she said. “I can’t say why.”
She said the fact that an additional 60,000 tickets were issued in 2011 didn’t account for the big jump in the amount paid. She said there were no new incentives — neither carrot nor stick — that encouraged people to pay.
The city did, however, receive more than $1 million in the last weeks of fiscal 2011 through an amnesty program that waived penalties if drivers made good on some of their unpaid tickets. That program continued through Jan. 27, generating $3.5 million.
Fine amounts double if tickets are not paid promptly, and District residents can’t renew their driver’s licences or vehicle registrations unless tickets are paid. The District also turns unpaid tickets over to a collection agency called Professional Account Management.
In addition to fines paid by ticket recipients, Townsend said the District nets about $40 million in parking meter revenue from 17,000 parking meters.
Those meters have earned more money for the District because it has become easier to feed them.
“Parking revenue is up in part because of better technology,” said John Lisle, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation. “People can pay by credit card and they can pay by phone. And they might pay for longer periods of time because they’re not scrounging for quarters under the front seat.”