The number of parking tickets issued in the District, along with the revenue that comes from them, has declined yet again, apparently because of the popularity of smartphone parking apps that make it easier to manage the meters and comply with the law.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, citing city data, said Thursday that the District issued about 1.4 million tickets in fiscal 2017, compared with about 1.8 million in 2010. That’s a drop of about 22 percent. In terms of revenue, the city raked in nearly $20 million less over the same period of time.
John B. Townsend, a spokesman for AAA, attributed the decline to smartphone apps that allow people to pay for street parking, monitor the time on the meters, set up alerts about the expiration time, and renew if necessary without having to return to the vehicle. People can also use the app SpotHero to reserve parking in garages.
“You no longer have to carry around a pocketful of quarters,” Townsend said. People “can really now manage their parking sessions, and it’s the best move the district has made on the parking front in 20 years.”
The decline was first spotted more than three years ago, when the city estimated that half of the people using on-street parking were paying through ParkMobile.
It’s a trend seen with variations in other cities following the introduction of parking apps. After Boston rolled out its ParkBoston app in 2015, the number of tickets issued for unpaid or expired meters fell 10 percent or so, the Boston Globe reported. But the paper also said revenue went up as people used meters and the app to pay for parking, with one more or less canceling out the other. In Toronto, parking violations dropped 29 percent after the city’s Green P app went live — prompting some city officials to cheer and others to talk about raising the fines to replace lost revenue.
On the other hand, the head of Buffalo’s parking violations bureau told WBFO that the city’s Buffalo Roam app has reduced the cost to collect parking fees vs. on-the-street metering devices because it requires less maintenance and fewer staff to enforce. He said the app also provided a lot of detailed data to help city planners further document parking patterns.
While tracking D.C. parking tickets, AAA also calculated the relative cost of parking in various U.S. cities. To no one’s surprise, New York City came out atop the list, with an average annual parking tab of more than $8,000. The District ranked second, with an annual cost of $4,200.
Townsend said he believes the cost of parking is high in D.C. because of the relative scarcity of street parking, height limits on buildings that drive up the value of all downtown real estate, and the lack of municipal parking lots, which means it’s mostly in the hands of generally more expensive private parking businesses. Plus, some on-street parking has been removed to make room for bike lanes, he said.
Townsend, citing city data, said the District has more than 400,000 parking spaces, nearly two-thirds of which are on the street. Of those, about 6 percent are metered. In June 2016, the city upped its parking rates to $2.30 an hour.
City officials at the District Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
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