- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

The District collects a little more than half of the millions of dollars worth of parking fines it issues, lagging behind the national average and other U.S. cities.

City parking enforcers handed out $99 million worth of tickets last year, and the District collected $53 million in fines, or about 53.5 percent of the tickets issued.

By comparison, Boston — a city of 590,000 residents — collected on 90 percent of its parking tickets issued, adding $63 million to city coffers, officials there said.

Officials in Austin, Texas — which has about 660,000 residents — said they collected on 77.8 percent of parking tickets issued.

Various estimates place the industry standard for collection at between 60 percent and 80 percent.

A 2003 report by the New York State Comptroller concluded that “an effective system should collect on average about 85 percent of parking fines.”

An industry analyst suggested in a recent published report that cities collecting less than 65 percent “need some kind of help.”

The District, with a population of 563,384, has a contract with Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services to process and collect delinquent parking fines.

A company spokesman said yesterday that the District would have to answer questions about the collection process.

D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials said they monitor the contract but did not provide statistics on unpaid tickets.

Department records show about 73,000 tickets were contested and dismissed in adjudication proceedings last year for a variety of reasons, including mistakes by the ticket writers and malfunctioning meters.

However, based on the District’s per-ticket average of $62, those tickets account for an estimated $4.5 million of the $46 million that went unpaid last year.

The percentage of revenue collected from the tickets has decreased since 2001, while the percentage of tickets dismissed in adjudication has steadily increased.

In 2002, hearing examiners with the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication tossed out roughly 37 percent of contested tickets. Last year the figure increased to 40.9 percent.

Andree Chan-Mann, fiscal officer for the city’s Department of Public Works, said she was not aware of an industry standard.

She said the department bases its yearly parking ticket revenue projections on a formula that divides the amount of revenue collected in recent years by the number of parking officers who are issuing tickets.

The number of parking officers has increased more than 300 percent since 2000, from 75 to 235, and many fines also have increased, but revenue collected from the tickets has increased 37 percent — from $38.8 million in fiscal 2000 to $53 million in fiscal 2004.

The net increase in revenue is reduced to $47.9 million after factoring in the salaries of the 160 additional officers.

The starting salary of a parking officers is $28,299 to $36,309, according to an employment ad on the city’s Web site, www.dcop.dc.gov.

Using the median salary of $32,304, the 160 extra officers are an added cost of more than $5.1 million.

The city has, in part, used the additional officers to increase its enforcement efforts.

Officials last year authorized an additional $636,000 for 11 additional full-time positions for boot patrol, which public works officials have said is the “city’s primary method of collecting overdue parking fines.”

Vehicles are immobilized by a tire boot when they accrue three or more unpaid parking tickets.

Janis Hazel, a DMV spokeswoman, said motorists also are not allowed to renew their vehicle registrations if they have unpaid parking tickets.

She also said the city is working on “compacts” with other jurisdictions to prevent registration renewals if tickets in the District remain unpaid and that the names of vehicle owners with unpaid tickets are being sent to a collection agency.

The D.C. Council voted in July 2002 to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations. The measure, coming after a year in which traffic-enforcement officers had cracked down on illegally parked cars of council members, was sponsored by council member Carol Schwartz and supported by council members Kevin P. Chavous, Jack Evans, Sandy Allen, Adrian M. Fenty, David A. Catania, Harold Brazil, Vincent B. Orange Sr., Linda W. Cropp and Jim Graham. Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and Sharon Ambrose voted no.

The exemption, approved but criticized at the time by Mr. Williams, extended to council members the same parking privileges enjoyed by members of Congress, including the freedom to park in bus zones, in restricted spaces near intersections, at building entrances and on restricted residential streets. It also freed council members from having to put money in parking meters. Mr. Brazil, Mr. Chavous and Mrs. Allen lost re-election bids last year.

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