WASHINGTON – It can be hard enough to find a parking spot in the District, but when you do, there’s a good chance you will get a ticket.
In fiscal year 2012, D.C. issued 1.8 million parking tickets worth $92.5 million, according to records obtained by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Most of those tickets went to drivers who live outside of D.C.
“It’s a war on the 400,000 drivers who come into the city every day and desperately need parking. The District thinks it’s winning this war, but it’s not,” says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.
Those 1.8 million tickets break down to about 7.3 tickets issued per minute and 436 parking tickets per hour, accounting for federal holidays and Sundays, when parking is free. It’s also about a 6 percent drop in parking tickets from the previous year.
AAA obtained the parking ticket data through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Here’s how the revenue compared from fiscal year 2011 and 2012:
Total Number of Parking Tickets Issued
Total Amount Of Parking Ticket Revenue Collected
FY 2012: 1,884,367
FY 2012: $92,554,646
FY 2011: 2,012,131
FY 2011: $92, 579, 971
“This is pure unadulterated exploitation of motorists. D.C. couldn’t get the commuter tax it wanted. So it makes it exceedingly hard to find parking, then you fine them for overstayed at the meter,” says Townsend.
About 71.3 percent of those parking tickets went to drivers in Maryland and Virginia.
According to a recent Census report, about 540,000 workers commute into the District daily, with 61 percent from Prince George’s, Montgomery and Fairfax counties.
“On a given day, generally two-thirds of the vehicles on our roads are non-D.C. tags, at least during rush hour,” says District Department of Transportation spokeswoman Monica Hernandez.
In fact, on a block outside AAA Mid-Atlantic’s office last week, four cars had parking tickets – three had Maryland or Virginia plates.
Combined, every other local jurisdiction in the Washington Metro region only issued about 350,000 parking tickets in FY 2012, according to data compiled by WTOP.
Montgomery County tops the list with 191,000 tickets. Prince George’s County issued about 70,000 and Fairfax County issued about 50,000.
“You’re taxing the guy living who is the tourist, bringing in millions for the city. You’re also taxing people coming into the city to work, to dine, to shop and to worship. That’ll ultimately just drive people out of D.C.,” says Townsend.
Hernandez says officers make every effort to write fair tickets, and many of the drivers are illegally parked.
“Motorists who believe they have been issued an erroneous ticket may challenge the ticket through the Department of Motor Vehicles,” says Hernandez.
In fiscal year 2012, DMV dismissed 50 percent of the adjudicated parking ticket cases they heard, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Hearing officers adjudicated 200,952 parking tickets in fiscal year 2012, but AAA says only 10.6 percent of tickets issued in FY 2012 were contested.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says the jump in revenues for the District came after the city raised rates on parking meters in 2010. The organization says between 1999 and 2005, D.C. collected $89,022,302 in parking meter revenue.
Critics point out that AAA Mid-Atlantic is a lobbying group that favors cars over mass transit, which about 40 percent of commuters into D.C. use.
DDOT and D.C.’s Office of Planning actively promote alternative options, such as trains, buses, Capital Bikeshare and car-sharing services like Zipcar and Car2go.
Later this year, residents also could have the option of streetcars between Union Station and Benning Road on H Street Northeast.