That's the Tickets

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From USA Today:

Cities get lift from parking fines

By Debbie Howlett, USA TODAY

CHICAGO ? Cities are jacking up parking fines and cracking down on unpaid tickets as a way to raise much-needed revenue.

The National League of Cities says 47% of the nation's cities raised fees and fines last year. Most of the added money came from parking tickets. Revenue from these fines and fees now rivals property taxes as a major source of municipal income, says the league's Chris Hoene.

Whole thing here.

Who invented the parking meter? Some say the inventor of the yo-yo and some say this guy. In either case, look upon your work and despair.

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  1. Well, I guess I’m lucky that I didn’t get a parking ticket in Baltimore today. Meeting went about 1/2 hour over my meter time.

    Not only do they jack up the fines for expired meters, but they also have been ratcheting down the time you get for paying the meter. One street in Baltimore City has meters on both sides of the street. One side has 4-hour maximums, with 1/2 hour per 25 cents, but the other side has 2-hour maximums at 20 minutes per 25 cents. I’d imagine that it won’t be long before we see 15 minutes per quarter at a lot of meters (this probably already exists somewhere).

  2. “City governments maximize revenue by keeping the number of legal parking spaces to a minimum, or setting limits which make it difficult for people to avoid going over the limit. This generates the maximum amount of fine revenue.”

    That’s insane. I have never heard of a city working to limit public parking, unless it was under a court order to do so. Cities build parking decks all the time, in order to make pre-automotive business districts accessible to people from the burbs.

  3. In the college town of Muncie, IN- there was a big scandal when it was revealed that there was massive corruption and graft in the college parking police. The campus had serious parking issues- there was extremely limited space and strict enforcement. The consensus among was that the regulations were unfair, arbitrarily enforced, and unreasonably high. There was talk of a “project mayhem”-style student rebellion- on one night, a team of covert operatives would inject epoxy into all the meters- next morning- no more parking fines, the enforcement tools disabled. This never happened, and I *think* some administrator or other got fired…

    The ultimate parking vigilante, though, is this guy, “The Axle Grinder”- a real-life superhero who actually comes to rescue your car by removing “the boot” that some cities attach!

    He operates in the UK- which for some reason is just Rife with vigilante activity. I track vigilante activity on my blog, if anyone is curious about that sort of thing and wants to visit.

    Axle Grinder story:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/3112670.stm

  4. When I lived in New Orleans, I almost never bothered looking for street parking and usually paid $10 or so to park in a garage. Once, I saw cars parked along the length of a block and assumed it was OK. When I returned I saw that every car on the street had a ticket and that there were small “no parking” signs on each end of the block. The woman I was with told me that she paid $2,000/year in parking tickets and just considered it a business expense, the cost of visiting customers in downtown New Orleans.

  5. My city did that. At one point, it was cheaper to leave your car at a meter all day and get a ticket than to pay to park in the garage.

    What’s the problem?

  6. My city did that, too. And the added bonus of parking tickets in my city is that it’s easier to dodge a parking ticket than it is to dodge property taxes, if you’re politically connected:

    Boston Ticket Scam

  7. Here in North Dakota, parking meters are outlawed in the state Constitution (I’m serious). Generally, you can park in any designated area for up to ninety minutes. The result is a statewide game of musical cars as workers dash from their offices to beat the deadline. The big winners? The meter maids…

  8. “The meter maids…”

    How quaint. We have “meter attendants.”

  9. Massachusetts has another revenue scam. They post “work area” speed limits, as much as 20 MPH below the regular posted speed limits, in areas which are devoid of construction workers, _and_ double the fines in those areas.

    I suppose invisible workers are in pretty grave danger, since the drivers can’t see them to avoid hitting them.

  10. This seems pretty rational to me. See Becker’s work on the optimal level of crime.

  11. Baltimore relies heavily on ticket revenue. They send out cars of meterers 24 hours a day. I’ve watched a car of four park and sweep a city block, handing out about a dozen tickets, in five minutes. I have received a ticket for having my front wheels forward over the line into a bus stop zone, at 3:15 in the morning. I have a friend whose car was left in operable by the flood after hurricane isabelle last year, he received two tickets the morning after before he could get it towed away.

    I suppose the revenue has helped the city, but it was one more reason for me to get rid of my car.

  12. Here near my house in Knoxville, TN, the cops and city have a good scam going. There’s a four lane, limited access highway, with very light traffic, where the speed limit is 45 mph. Now this highway happens to run right by the main police station, so the cops can just drive a quarter mile, sit on the overpass, and trap “speeders” on this highway. I got caught doing 60 myself, and I had never quite realized the speed limit was so low. I know it’s my responsibility, but still . . . seems quite insane to me. Since the speed limit goes up to 55 about a mile beyond the police station with no visible change in conditions, I think my theory has a lot going for it. If there were a great many more tickets handed out at the end of the month, my theory would have even more merit . . . I’ll have to try to find that out.

  13. “Look upon your work and despair”? I thought we were supposed to use willingness to pay as a means to distribute a scarce resource like on-street parking.

    Libertarians, alas, turn into Republicans whenever the subject turns to roads.

  14. wonder why everyone is moving to the suburbs?

  15. Because they want lawns?

  16. and they can park anywhere they like, for free.

  17. Let describe the Milwaukee Parking Scam. Car owners who cannot arrange off-street parking for a car must buy an overnight parking sticker. Once that is paid for, one may park in a legal space on the side of the street with odd-housenumbers on the 1st, 3rd, etc. of the month. Park on the even side of the street on the 2nd, 4th, and so on. Winter rules usually replace the alternate side rules with parking on just the one side, to facilitate plowing.

    So you come home from working the late shift, seeing a movie or whatever, and try to find a spot. But you can’t, either because stickerless cars have taken all the legal spaces, or because the city feels free to sell more overnight permits than there are legal spaces in your neighborhood. So, you take the least worst illegal space, and hope the parking checkers fill their evening’s quotas before they hit your block.

    Poor folks often get trapped in a vicious circle. They delay paying the ticket, which increases the fine. Too many fines unpaid, and your registration is suspended. Get caught driving an unregistered vehicle and you might have to sit in jail until a family member or friend shows up with some cash.

    http://www.jsonline.com/bym/biz2biz/sep03/166763.asp?format=print

    The city estimated that 62K of drivers had licenses suspended for failure to pay one fine or another. MKE only has ~600K residents, many of them too young to drive.

    Wisely, a reinstatement program was instituted.

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jan04/201631.asp

    Get them back on the road legally, so they can get to work and get paid. Then they can pay off the rest of their fines.

    Ka-ching!

    Kevin

  18. and there’s less crime.

  19. and the schools are better.

  20. and there’s less litter.

  21. “Look apon your work and despair.” Where does that come from? It souds familiar.

  22. M1EK: Government monopoly pricing isn’t libertarian. City governments maximize revenue by keeping the number of legal parking spaces to a minimum, or setting limits which make it difficult for people to avoid going over the limit. This generates the maximum amount of fine revenue.

    Charging higher rates at the meter would be less effective, because people would know what they were paying. Fines establish what amounts to a lottery-to-lose, with the odds of losing being unknown.

  23. A tip that might be out of date: If you go down to City Hall in Chicago to pay your tickets, they generally offer you half off.

  24. I met a traveller from an antique land,
    Who said–“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desart….Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
    And on the pedestal, these words appear:
    My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
    Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  25. M1EK –

    you’re off the mark. Parking garages don’t distribute fines for parking too long. They just charge you more (but usually less than the fine).

    Problem is, fines are susceptible to political manipulation to raise revenue by imposing additional costs on the ‘customers’ that free market parking couldn’t bear (such as the example of the ticket given to the poster above at 3:15 in the morning for being over the line, or unable to get your car moving after a flood). If a parking garage did that to you, you’d never park there again.

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