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L.A. May Reduce The Ridiculous Cost Of Parking Tickets

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It's happened to all of us. You're walking out to your vehicle early on a weekday morning when you notice a little piece of paper, encased in an envelope addressed to the Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau, slipped beneath your windshield wiper. It's 7:45 in the morning, but a quick look at the citation reveals the meter maid was there at 7:26 a.m. You forgot it is street sweeping day, which prohibits parking on that particular street side from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., regardless of whether or not the streets are actually swept.

Now, you get to fork over $73 ($75 if you pay online!) to the city of Los Angeles, and do your best to forget about all the other things that money could have been used for. It's a sad day, and even more so if those $73 were earmarked for rent. :(

On Wednesday, however, the L.A. City Council moved forward with some serious consideration of significant reform to the way our city handles parking violations, according to KPCC.

High on the list of the proposed changes, submitted by the L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT), is reducing the cost of both street sweeping and overstayed meter tickets by $10. Where these fines are currently $73 and $63 respectively, the LADOT report suggests reducing the fine for street sweeping violations to $63, and the fine for missing a meter payment to $53. These values would bring fines in the City of Los Angeles to concurrence with those in neighboring cities. Expired meter fines in Los Angeles are higher than those in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and even Beverly Hills.

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The LADOT report explains that a $10 reduction of meter and street sweeping fines would cost the city precisely $12.55 million of easy revenue annually, however also emphasizes that $12.55 million ultimately a pittance to a city budget measured in the billions. As the report says, "Even if the city were to reduce all traffic fines by half (which is not being proposed) the reduction would still be less than 1% of the total budget."

The LADOT report includes other proposals as well, including a potential tiered fine system that would have broadly lower fines for first-time violators, eventually increasing those fines if folks repeatedly break parking law (e.g. forget to move their car for street sweeping). Also on the list is a payment plan system that would break payment of fines into three, supposedly more manageable, installments of $20 to $30. If the fine can't be paid, then L.A. would, hypothetically, allow time spent doing community service as a substitute for a $73 fine.

Finally, the LADOT report proposes a "technology based solution" that would enable residents to receive text-message notifications about street-sweeping enforcement, and develop better communication between the Parking Enforcement Bureau and the Bureau of Street Services, so street sweeping tickets are only issued if the street is actually, you know, swept.

Parking revenue in L.A. is, as you might expect, highly contested. A response to the LADOT's proposed changes by the Los Angeles Parking Reform Working Group, a citizens panel organized by Mayor Garcetti to develop parking solutions, argued vehemently that the LADOT needs to more seriously consider a tiered fine system, condemning the LADOT by saying "Unfortunately, LADOT has spent this entire report arguing why the [tiered fine] proposal can't work, rather than exploring the challenges and how they might be overcome."

The response argues that parking fine disproportionately affect low-income Angelenos, who live in high-density districts with limited access to off-street parking. While $73 on a street sweeping ticket might not affect wealthier Angelenos, it represents a significant burden for those less who are privileged.

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Each year, 2.6 million parking citations are issued in the city of Los Angeles alone. Coincidentally, parking fines were increased by 58-percent between 2006 and 2012 to, as the Parking Reform Group argues, "to fill a budget gap. Fines were not raised 'to encourage driver compliance.' To suggest [as the LADOT did in its report] so is laughable."