D.C. set to break park­ing fines record

Is­sued 1.6 mil­lion tick­ets in 2011

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY MERED­ITH SOMERS

The Dis­trict raked in $31 mil­lion in park­ing ticket fines from Oc­to­ber to Jan­uary, putting the city on track to break its pre­vi­ous an­nual rev­enue col­lec­tion records for at least the sec­ond fis­cal year in a row, ac­cord­ing to a re­port is­sued Mon­day by AAA Mid-at­lantic.

If the city con­tin­ues to col­lect ticket fines at the rate it has for the first four months of fis­cal 2012, AAA spokesman John Townsend said, D.C. cof­fers could end up with at least $93 mil­lion by au­tumn.

“It’s high­way rob­bery,” he said. “It used to be brig­ands and high­way men were the ones do­ing it. This is high­way rob­bery be­ing done by a city.”

The pro­jec­tion came as AAA re­leased final rev­enue fig­ures from park­ing tick­ets col­lected by the city for fis­cal 2011: $92.6 mil­lion for 1.6 mil­lion is­sued tick­ets.

The city’s fis­cal cal­en­dar runs Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

Lucinda M. Babers, di­rec­tor of the D.C. Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles, said Mon­day the rev­enue fig­ures are not ex­act be­cause of out­stand­ing tick­ets be­ing paid off through the city’s ticket amnesty pro­gram, which has ended but still has mo­torists mak­ing in­stall­ments through July.

Ms. Babers said the pro­gram has al­ready col­lected about $5 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to num­bers from AAA, which were ob­tained through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest, park­ing en­forcers is­sued tick­ets at a rate of six a minute in fis­cal 2011.

One rea­son for the high num­ber of park­ing tick­ets is­sued, Mr. Townsend said, is the roughly 17,000 me­tered park­ing spa­ces ex­pected to sup­port thou­sands of daily com­muters to the Dis­trict, and mil­lions of vis­i­tors an­nu­ally who don’t know any bet­ter.

This “fi­nite re­source” might be a way to snag dis­obey­ing driv­ers, but it’s also a de­ter­rent, Mr. Townsend said, be­cause peo­ple will think twice about go­ing to the Dis­trict for a night out know­ing they face a park­ing fine or a $15-to-$20 fee to park un­der­ground.

“Peo­ple come here be­cause they l ove the coun­try, and they leave with a bad im­pres­sion — not of the na­tion, but of the knuck­le­heads that run this city.”

Se th Price, a lawyer and found­ing part­ner with Price Benowitz LLP, said his firm em­ploys an at­tor­ney for DMV cases. But mo­torists rarely hire a lawyer to con­test a park­ing ticket be­cause it usu­ally costs more to pay the le­gal fees than it does the ticket.

Of the 1.1 mil­lion park­ing tick­ets is­sued from Oct. 1, 2010, through May 2011, about 89,000 were ad­ju­di­cated, and the city dis­missed slightly fewer than half of those tick­ets.

The “rel­a­tively mod­est” price of tick­ets does pose an in­ter­est­ing sit­u­a­tion, Mr. Price said, es­pe­cially when con­sid­er­ing the steep park­ing rates in down­town area garages.

A $25 ticket is some­times only a few dol­lars more than what it would cost to park in a garage. At the same time, Mr. Price said, while there’s the op­tion of fight­ing the ticket, some­times “it’s not worth the time and ef­fort to fight.” The Dis­trict col­lected $92.6 mil­lion from park­ing tick­ets in fis­cal 2011, break­ing the fis­cal 2010 record.

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