Editorial: The only way to fix parking tickets is to make it easier not to get one
The second worst thing about driving in Los Angeles is parking in Los Angeles — and getting a ticket for it. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2015, the city handed out nearly two and a half million tickets. A little more than a quarter of them were written for parking during street sweeping hours, the top violation. The next most frequent transgression was overstaying in a metered spot.
Last year, the city took in close to $148 million in revenue from parking tickets, according to a new report by City Controller Ron Galperin. (The report features a nifty website that lets you see, among other things, how many tickets were given out and where.) Only $41 million of that revenue went to the city’s general fund, which covers services like police and fire, while the rest paid for administrative overhead and traffic officers — who also do traffic control at events and emergencies. In fact, it took the equivalent of 10 full-time traffic officers just to give out the 45,000 parking tickets that UPS and FedEx together racked up in fiscal year 2014-2015. That amounted to about $4 million in fines.
Galperin, as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Los Angeles Parking Reform Working Group, suggest that it might be possible to work out an arrangement with the delivery companies that would streamline bureaucracy and cut administrative costs. An arrangement in New York City that reduced fines for delivery companies if they waived their right to contest fines eliminated 770,000 ticket hearings and saved $1 million in administrative costs in each of its first two years.
Galperin notes that there’s been some talk about reducing parking ticket fees in general (fines range from $25 to $363). But he says it wouldn’t be prudent to reduce parking ticket fees with a possible budget shortfall looming. That makes sense. But perhaps there are ways to help people who are trying to observe parking rules but still end up with a ticket. Galperin has some suggestions.
Putting all 37,000 parking meters in the city on a smart phone app that allows the driver to add more money remotely to the meter is an excellent idea. (However, it wouldn’t let you buy time beyond the posted limit. Sorry.) Another idea: digital signs that make it easier to determine on the spot if the parking place you’re pulling into is legal — instead of having to decipher a totem pole of signs offering alternate parking realities for different days and times of the day.
And this: Drivers could get text messages that alert them to when street sweeping is about to start or is already finished, allowing them to pinpoint more specifically when in that two-hour time zone of sweeping they could resume parking.
Galperin says the city’s parking technology is stuck in the middle of the 20th century. It’s time the city brought its approach to meters and spaces up to 2017.
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