Smartphones and new technology have made it easier to pay for parking in the District, and the result has been a decline in the number of tickets issued, an analysis shows.
In just four years, the number of parking tickets issued in the District has dropped by 300,000, according to city records. More than half of drivers who use on-street parking are estimated to be using the Parkmobile app, an average of 600,000 per month. Add drivers who use credit cards to pay at meters or pay stations, and about 70 percent of on-street parking transactions are cash-free, D.C. records show.
“Drivers no longer have to carry around 16 quarters in hope of avoiding a parking ticket. The mobile app has become a game-changer for frustrated drivers,” said John B. Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The sheer number of pay-by-phone app users in the city has grown exponentially since the District inaugurated its [pay-by-app] system in 2010.”
These are the waning years of the search for parking as we’ve known it. Even with things such as feed-the-meter-by-phone apps, technology is way ahead of the applications on the market. Circling the block in search of a space won’t be necessary once everyone gets one of the find-me-a-space apps now available.
ParkWhiz lets you reserve and pre-pay for a parking spot near your destination; Parking Panda helps you find parking near a sporting event or other activity. ParkMe and SpotHero offer similar assistance.
But the revolutionary hour for urban parking may begin when on-board car computers begin chatting with one another and culminate once fully autonomous cars become the norm. It’s not far-fetched to think that one day you will tell your car to drop you at the front door and then find a parking place on its own.
The D.C. Council on Thursday is prepared to consider whether to raise parking ticket fines by $5 and extend the hours for when meters in “premium zones,” which include the busiest commercial districts, will be in effect, from the current 10 p.m. until midnight. Parking ticket fines currently range from $25 to $250, depending on the violation.
While the number of parking tickets issued between 2011 and 2014 dropped by 15.1 percent, adjustments in fines charged for offenses limited the city’s losses. Revenue was off by just 7.7 percent, to $84,247,945, in fiscal year 2014.
“Even so, parking tickets, and the revenue derived from them have fallen to the lowest level since 2010, the year the city implemented its cashless pay-by-phone parking meter system,” Townsend said.
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works, said: “DPW is not the only ticket-issuing agency in the District, so we cannot verify ticket numbers for all the agencies. The Department of Motor Vehicles processes all parking tickets written; therefore, they are the keeper of the numbers.”
By Townsend’s calculations, the District has handed out more than 9.5 million parking tickets and collected $460,556,212 in fines since fiscal year 2010.
There are 17,000 metered parking spaces in the District as well as 3,500 blocks designated as residential parking.
Tickets for letting the meter expire make up a small portion of the overall number of parking tickets issued. Last year, they accounted for 217,966 of the 1,684,863 tickets written. The District issued 445,615 tickets for expired meters in fiscal 2011, D.C. records show.
Among the other big-ticketing violations last year were: 91,702 tickets for violating the “no parking—street cleaning” regulations and 65,797 tickets for ignoring “no parking or standing—evening rush hour” signs.
Last year, the District’s inspector general issued a report critical of the city’s ticket-writing practices. The report said traffic citations represent a $179 million-a-year business for the District, where drivers often get tickets for violations they don’t commit and for vehicles they’ve never owned.
The report included the comment of a “senior District official,” granted anonymity by the inspector general, who said, “One of the beauties of parking, it’s like the [Internal Revenue Service]. If you get a parking ticket, you are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent. . . . And that’s worked well for us.”
The inspector general faulted parking ticket writers for frequently failing to also issue a “required” photograph that shows the violation. The report recommended that “any parking ticket for which the motorist is not given clear photographic evidence of the violation shall be dismissed.”
Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland Jr. responded to the report, in testimony before the D.C. Council, by instructing ticket writers to use smartphones to take the required photos. Howland said that resulted in “a 76 percent overall decrease in ticket errors” from October 2014 through January.
“In four of our top 10 highest error categories (license tag number, state, location and missing or blank comments section), we have decreased errors by 96 percent,” Howland told the council in February.