Surprising findings on traffic tickets and parking prices for D.C. drivers

September 16, 2014

Vindication for motorists across the Washington, D.C., area: Three public agencies responsible for issuing traffic tickets were reprimanded in a damning report released earlier this month by the district’s inspector general.

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A lifetime of adventure, probably not, but a lifetime of contradictory rules and misaligned incentives, probably. From Mike Licht.

Comparing D.C. against the states and nearby jurisdictions, the 115-page audit discovered multiple shortcomings: a startling number of ticket writers often confused about regulations (which are in short supply, the report noted), irregular decision-making about which drivers receive speed-camera tickets, and enforcement officials scolded for not writing enough tickets.

The last finding may raise eyebrows, considering the numerous tickets regularly issued by local ticket-writers. In 2013 alone, D.C.’s police department, which oversees the district’s speed and red-light cameras, issued 745,875 tickets, while its Department of Transportation (DDOT) issued 3,389. Neither agency had anything on the Department of Public Works, however; its enforcers issued 1,731,861 citations for parking-meter violations last year. Combined, the tickets raised $179 million in revenue for the district.

D.C. has been able to collect the fines in part, the report said, because those who write citations for parking-meter offenses often fail to include the required photograph documenting the violation. The report recommends the dismissal of tickets issued without clear photographic evidence.

The report also recommends that DDOT provide guidance on times when drivers are more likely to be ticketed. The agency’s officers—many of whom are stationed at intersections during rush hour—raised concerns for their inconsistent ticketing practices.

“Skeptical member of the public might believe that the District’s failure to inform them on this subject is intentional: without clear criteria of the District’s ticketing policy, a ticketed motorist is unable to prove that DDOT enforcement officers failed to follow proper procedure,” the inspector general wrote.

The report’s publication coincided with findings released by DDOT from its Curbside Parking Management study, which suggests D.C. residents may be willing to back more expensive residential street parking if it makes it easier to find a parking space closer to home.

When asked if they would rather pay more for parking near their home or drive farther to search for another spot, 63 percent of residents said they would prefer to pay a little more for the chance to park closer to home. Fourteen percent chose a longer walk.

The findings upend the conventional wisdom that politicians should avoid price increases—especially those that relate to parking, a volatile issue in the traffic-clogged district.

But if fallout from the inspector general’s report lowers the number of tickets issued in D.C. (and thus revenue earned from the citations), it’s possible that raising prices for residential parking permits could offset some of the lost revenue.

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Category: Regulations

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