Washington, D.C. earns highest parking ticket revenues per citizen

January 3, 2014

Each year, American cities balance their budgets, looking to see what’s fattened the wallet and what’s kept it slender. The list can include the collection of development fees, property taxes, and parking and traffic fines. In fact, the latter can be a veritable cash cow for some cities, according to TicketZen.

The Boston-based mobile app company, which helps local governments design mobile parking-payment programs that allow motorists to pay parking tickets instantly via smartphone, looked at five of the country’s biggest cities to see how their parking ticket revenues compare. The first step meant gathering population data for each one:


New York         8,210,000
Los Angeles      3,850,000
San Francisco   812,000
Boston             625,000
Washington, D.C.  580,000

Next, TicketZen reviewed the parking ticket revenue listed in the most recent comprehensive annual financial reports generated by each city.

TABLE 1. Data suggests that New York earns the most parking ticket revenue per capita. Courtesy TicketZen.

This table, courtesy TicketZen, suggests New York earns the most parking ticket revenue per capita.

With New York clearly outsizing many of the cities on the list, it’s no surprise that the Big Apple tops them all. But that analysis doesn’t reveal the full picture. By taking the revenue collected by each city and dividing it by the number of citizens, TicketZen learned which city earns the most per individual ticketed.

TABLE 2. Washington, D.C., is the runaway leader in parking-ticket revenue per citizen. Courtesy TicketZen.

Washington, D.C., is the runaway leader in parking-ticket revenue per citizen. Courtesy TicketZen.

Turns out Washington, D.C. — the smallest by population — rules the list at $159 of parking ticket revenue collected per citizen. That’s more than twice the amount collected by the country’s largest city ($71) and higher than San Francisco ($108), Boston ($99), Chicago ($97), and Los Angeles ($41).

D.C.’s perch at the top may surprise no one who has ever driven in that city, or who is a regular follower of parking news. In 2011, the nation’s capital set an all-time record for parking tickets issued at 1.6 million — and the revenue it collected from the resulting fines: $92.6 million. That figure equaled what Los Angeles collected, though the West Coast city boasts 40,000 parking meters to DC’s 17,000.

D.C. can issue so many tickets because almost 30 federal and city agencies are empowered to do so and because their services are in demand. Indeed, the district’s Department of Public Works (DPW) tracks increased parking enforcement as the second most requested service. Merchants regularly ask the DPW to enforce parking regulations near their businesses in order to increase turnover, and residents often call the department to complain about commuters who squat at parking spaces more properly reserved for neighbors.

The DPW explained its approach to the press as a “response to strong competition for legal curbside parking and reflects the needs of residents, businesses, and the motoring public.”

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Category: Miscellaneous, Regulations

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