Drivers in L.A. can agree on at least one thing: Parking tickets are way too expensive. At about $73 apiece, they also constitute a regressive tax, one that hits the poor and working class much harder than the affluent.
The median individual income in L.A County is about $28,000, so a ticket can hit some especially hard. It can mean the difference between a week's worth of groceries and a run to Jack in the Box for a pair of tacos.
This week City Hall essentially admitted that it relies on parking ticket income for a slice of its budget. It's using parking tickets, which should be given only to those who deserve them, as a steady tax stream. This, of course, calls into question the justice and motive of these citations.
Jay Beeber, a longtime anti-ticket crusader who once ran for City Council, describes the city's position like this: "Yes we're being unfair, but we can't do anything about it because we need the money."
Indeed, the office of city controller Ron Galperin this week basically argued that government needs that ticket money too much to offer a reduction in parking fines, which had been proposed by the Department of Transportation after a working group on tickets, which included Beeber, harangued local politicians over this racket.
The working group called for at least a $10 fine reduction as well as possible payment installment options and even, perhaps, a pay-after-you-park program that would take the guesswork out of the equation.
Beeber says parking fines were increased by the city during the Great Recession, when the city budget was a few hundred million dollars in the red.
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Galperin, citing a Great Recession–like budget shortfall of $245 million projected for this fiscal year, says a discount isn't in the cards. "As much as we’d like to reduce parking fines, we currently rely on the revenues," he said in a statement. "The city generated close to $148 million in gross ticket revenues in the last year — but some three-fourths of ticket revenue went to overhead, salaries and administrative costs. The remaining $41 million was transferred to the city’s General Fund to help pay for city services such as police and fire."
The statement goes on to say: "Rather than just cut ticket prices now, we should instead invest in new solutions that will help to reduce administrative costs, and give people a clearer indication whether they can park in a spot — so as to not get a ticket in the first place."
Mayor Eric Garcetti was expected to make an announcement on the city's parking ticket policy this month.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed the quote about investing in new solutions that will help to reduce administrative costs. That statement was from Galperin, not Beeber.