If you've lived in a L.A. for even a short stretch of time you know there's a hidden but brutal tax in this city.
It's called the parking ticket. Opponents of the tax scheme say L.A. generates $300 million a year in parking revenue, $150 million of that from tickets.
A new revolt called the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative cropped up late this year and promises to shake up City Hall in 2014 over the issue:
As parking fines have jumped to $61 in six years and the city's take has increased as a result of expanding hours when meters are in effect, local activists Steven Vincent and Jay Beeber are saying enough.
They're gearing up to force changes in the city's ticketing policy in 2014, including a possible voter initiative that could bypass the City Council's will.
Beeber, who helped put the nails in the coffin of the city's red-light camera scam, says the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative is about putting the streets back under the control of the people.
After all, how many of you would vote for such onerous parking regulations and ticketing?
Beeber told us:
We're looking to reform the philosophy on the way parking is handled in the city of Los Angeles. Right now it's looked at as a profit center. How high can we make parking meter rates, how many hours can we run them for, how much can we increase the fines?
When the city had a budget crises a couple years ago the City Council went to the L.A. Department of Transportation and said, 'How can we maximize revenue here.' Rather than look at it from a standpoint of how much money you can extract from citizens, we should look at it as a service to the citizens of Los Angeles. That would help facilitate parking at businesses and neighborhoods without driving people away from the city and the businesses.
Among the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative's goals:
-- Let local business districts and neighborhood councils have more weight in deciding how long folks can park at meters. Often one hour is not enough.
-- Get more flexible on street-cleaning days: Allow residents to move their cars back to those streets after the street cleaner has gone by instead of using a blanket system that blocks out multiple hours.
-- Lower fines.
-- Base ticket amounts on how long you've gone past a meter's expiration.
-- Allow a much lower fine, perhaps $20, if you pay up within 24 hours. (Beeber says that more than one-third of tickets go unpaid, so this could actually be a boon for city coffers as well as a good way to decrease financial stress for motorists).
-- Put parking ticket revenues back into the expansion of public parking.
Beeber says the idea that limiting parking will get people to use more public transit and walk more is hogwash:
If you don't build parking people will stop driving? Doesn't make sense. That may be true in New York City where there are copious amounts of transit options. But here in Los Angeles the city is so spread out.
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He has high hopes for 2014:
The citizens will have their say. And that's what government is supposed to be about.
Until then, keep some quarters handy and read the fine print on those parking signs.