Parking Meter Woes

Just when you thought driving couldn't get any tougher in Los Angeles, it has. Fines in California are being raised across the board for any type of traffic violation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

A couple weeks ago, after leaving the YMCA, I returned to my parked car to find a citation. La Cañada-Flintridge had charged me $60 for not having a blue sticker on my license plate; a rather hefty fee considering my car registration is up-to-date. Thing is, increased citation fees have become a greater source of revenue for the government.

The Times reported that within the past three years, revenues from running a red light increased from $200,000 a month in 2007 to $400,000 a month in 2009. Not coming to a complete stop at a red light before turning right increased from $156 to $381 per violation. Even minor violations, such as a broken taillight, have now doubled in recent years.

Governor Schwarzenegger also demanded that speeding sensors be placed on red lights to catch speeders, according to the Times. Violators would be fined anywhere from $225 to $325. Fines would generate more then $300 million in revenue through 2011.

For many people, the raise in fines is a major problem. Yes, we get it; it's for our safety and for the safety of other drivers. But when the fines for violations such as a broken taillight get doubled, that's just ridiculous. The problem is, the government knows it can get away with this.

There have been incidents in Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Hollywood where parking enforcement has abused their right to give a ticket. The Times reported that 10 to 12 percent of parking meters in these neighborhoods have been deemed failed or broken. Most have that message flickering on their displays. In Los Angeles, meter enforcers aren't allowed to write a ticket for cars parked at a failed meter.

Los Angeles councilmember Tom LaBonge has pressured the Department of Transportation to avoid unfair ticketing. LaBonge's Web site states that parking enforcers are not allowed to write tickets at failed meters.

"We've already raised the parking rates," said LaBonge. "I want to make sure that we're not unfairly ticketing people, too."

So the question is this: Why do they still do it?

The Times reported that in the last fiscal year, at least 550,000 tickets were given out because cars were parked in failed meters. Out of all the citations, only two percent were contested.

Dan Schwartz, a Silver Lake resident, questioned what was going on when he received a citation for a failed meter, even though he put a note on his dashboard addressing the failed meter. "I would like to feel that this city is not trying to marginalize me into being a petty criminal in order to make money from me," Schwartz told the Times. He thinks a lot of people in the city believe this is what is occurring.

Even Santa Monica has felt the burden of expensive parking tickets. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, Carolyn Oldham sent a letter to the editor about a $61 parking ticket she received. Feeling the fine was rather steep for only three hours of parking, Oldham was incredibly upset about the incident.

"I could not help but notice that there were several parking spots available to I was not depriving anyone of a potential spot," she wrote.

Parking is continuing to become a hassle and although the government is behind raising ticket costs, parking enforcers should also have some common sense when handing out tickets.

According to Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman, parking enforcers do not operate on a quota system.

"We typically write three million citations a year," said Gillman in a telephone interview. "That figure has held steady for three years regardless of the number of officers deployed on the streets and alleys of Los Angeles."

If a quota does not bind parking enforcers, then they could use fair judgment and, dare we say, compassion, when issuing tickets. The power is in their hands and it is a power they have misused for a long time. It seems that they believe they can get away with it and many people are not confident enough to contest this injustice.

There has to be more restraint on the matter of parking violations. The recession isn't doing us any favors when it comes to our wallets. The government should give us a break and quit cashing in on decent taxpayers.