Why are LA’s parking tickets so expensive?

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If you’re an A-list movie star living in the Hollywood Hills, $63 may be nothing. But for many Angelenos it’s a big chunk of change. So it’s demoralizing when you walk up to your car to find a red and white envelope stuck to your windshield because you got to the meter too late.

Angela Durrell knows the feeling. She asked Curious Coast: “Why are the parking tickets in this town so expensive? I just want to know where all that money goes and why they’re so expensive.”

Listen to the answer below:

Even Los Angeles officials know parking tickets are pricey and burdensome for many. In fact in 2014, Mayor Eric Garcetti, after pressure from parking reform advocates, formed the Parking Reform Working Group. The panel of citizens to come up with more equitable citation policies.

Jay Beeber is a long time parking activist and the Executive Director of Safer Streets LA, a traffic law policy organization. He is also co-chair of the LA’s parking reform working group and helped us answer Angela’s questions. Here’s what you need to know.

How much are parking tickets in Los Angeles?

About half the citations LA’s parking enforcement officers give out annually are for expired meters and street sweeping. Expired meter tickets in LA run $63. Street sweeping tickets run $73. They’re expensive. The city knows it.

Why are parking tickets are so expensive?

The simple answer is because LA city officials want to generate revenue for the city’s general fund. In 2002, an expired meter ticket was $35. Over the next 10 years, in an effort to increase revenue to make up for budget holes, Los Angeles raised parking fine amounts. By 2012, the meter parking ticket had jumped by to $63 a citation.

“I went back and searched all of the documents and in all of these instances it was about how much more money can we raise,” said Jay Beeber. “It was never about ‘Hey, are we getting compliance? Hey, are we not doing this correctly? Do we need to raise the fines.’”

Where does the money go? Does it really help the city?

The city gives out, on average, about 2.5 million parking citations a year which brings in a little under $150 million in gross revenue. About 75 percent of that goes to administrative costs, including paying the parking enforcement staff. Subtract the administrative costs and the general fund really only gets $41 million. This $41 million – out of an $8.7 billion annual budget – is what Beeber called a “drop in the bucket.”

But the city sees it differently. Earlier this year the LA Department of Transportation proposed dropping parking fines by $10. City Controller Ron Galperin said in a statement “As much as we’d like to reduce parking fines, we currently rely on the revenues… The $41 million was transferred to the city’s General Fund to help pay for city services such as police and fire.”

Is the city giving too many tickets?

The City Council just approved a pilot program that will be implemented in West Los Angeles and Woodland Hills, with the aim of reducing the number of street sweeping tickets.

According to Brian Hale, the LA Department of Transportation’s Deputy Chief of Parking Enforcement, the plan would work like this: street sweepers would be equipped with a GPS monitor. Once a street has been swept, residents who had subscribed to a service would get a smartphone notification or email update, letting them know that the cleaning is over and it’s okay to park there.

According to Beeber, the Parking Reform Working Group is pushing for the City to implement other reforms, including offering up to a 50 percent reduction in the cost of a ticket for people who pay the fine early- 48 to 72 hours after receiving the ticket.

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