City Controller says LA should not reduce parking fines

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Has the cost of parking tickets in Los Angeles gotten too high? City Controller Ron Galperin doesn’t think so, and he’s unveiled a fancy new website to explain why.

Want to know how many parking tickets were handed out in your neighborhood in 2015? How many went to Chevy drivers? How many to people who forgot what time street sweeping started? You can find answers to all those questions and more on Galperin’s new site.

Chock full of fun tables, graphs, and interactive maps, the site is designed to provide the public with insight into how and why the city goes about fining illegally parked drivers—as well as where the ticket money goes.

That should make the site a welcome feature for the many Angelenos who have received parking tickets they aren’t sure why they’ve received (or how they’ll pay for).

Less welcome might be Galperin’s accompanying conclusion that the city should reconsider efforts to lower parking fines.

In June, a citizen panel organized by Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed lowering fees for many parking violations and creating a tiered fine structure that would target repeat offenders.

But Galperin suggests such efforts would be the wrong approach to improving the ticketing system. “Everyone hates getting parking tickets,” he said, “but parking tickets are an important tool to keep parking spots available in front of businesses, ensure first responders have access to fire hydrants and fire lanes in case of an emergency, and help make sure Angelenos can find parking spots near their homes.”

Map of LA with blue dots representing tickets
The new parking ticket site includes an interactive map showing every citation issued in 2015
City of LA

Of course, tickets also have another purpose: to provide the city with extra revenue. But, as the data on the website shows, ticketing hapless drivers isn’t quite as profitable as you might expect.

In the last fiscal year, Los Angeles brought in nearly $148 million in revenue from parking ticket payments. 72 percent of that total went to overhead costs, resulting in under $42 million left over for the city’s general fund. Galperin argues that reducing this total further would leave the city badly cash strapped as it braces for a predicted budget shortfall of $245 million this current fiscal year.

Instead of reducing fines, Galperin proposes that the city “invest in new solutions” to make the public parking system more transparent and easier to use. New features that Galperin proposes include smartphone apps that would allow drivers to feed meters by phone, digital parking signs that would be easier to adjust to reflect new regulations, changes to the late fee structure, “reevaluation” of street sweeping schedules, and improvements to the freight and delivery truck delivery system.

That last item is important because, as the new website indicates, nearly two percent of all tickets go to UPS and FedEx drivers.

“Angelenos deserve more than a fine reduction,” Galperin said. “They need a fair system that gives them a fair shake.”

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