Wednesday, July 02, 2014

"Parking control officers," quotas, and parking tickets

The most expensive parking tickets in the country

From a story in today's SF Examiner (SF parking citation officer ‘going rogue’ with unwarranted tickets):

When the parking control officer saw them, [Gary]Malec said, she made a U-turn and "sped away on the street, reckless, and she didn't come around the Friday after that. She's, like, hiding or something." It was only when this parking control officer, badge No. 53, began inspecting the block that neighbors received unwarranted tickets, Gary Malec's brother said. "They have to meet a certain quota, I'm sure, and she's just going around slapping tickets," said Mark Malec, 23. "She's going rogue, because this has never been a problem"...But "no action is being taken against this employee based on that investigation," said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose, who added that the parking officer who issued the ticket, Andrea Bouie, has been with the agency since 2003 and has no other unwarranted parking citations under her name. As to whether employees in her position have quotas to meet, Rose said no.

Of course Rose has to deny that parking tickets have anything to do with raising money for the bureaucracy that he works for. It's supposedly all about "managing" the parking supply and enforcing the law. Rose is Media Relations Manager for the MTA, which is a bloated title for the flak-catcher, bullshitter, and defender of the indefensible for a bloated bureaucracy of more than 5,000 employees (see this, this, this, thisthis, and this).

It's not a matter of her "going rogue." Why would a salaried worker for the city do that? Whether it's a formal quota or not, there's a direct relationship between the number of "parking control officers," the number of tickets issued, and the money the MTA makes from the tickets.

The Examiner reported on this relationship four years ago (Parking citations on the decline) when income from parking tickets declined during the recession:

The MTA has attributed the 16 percent drop in citations to cash-strapped drivers becoming more wary of parking regulations, a decrease in street-sweeping operations and fewer motorists out on the road because of the weakened economy. In the 2003-04 fiscal year, each parking control officer doled out an average of 611 citations per month. For this fiscal year, which ends in June, parking control officers are projected to hand out an average of 498 per month, according to an MTA document obtained by The Examiner.

Since Muni had a deficit that year, it planned to lay off 24 parking control officers:

The decision to let go of the 24 parking control officers has attracted the most indignation, since those employees generate revenue for The City. However, the MTA believes there won’t be a revenue drop, so long as the remaining 254 parking control officers step up their production. If each one of those officers gives out 540 monthly citations---nine less than the 2007-08 fiscal year monthly average of 549---the agency won’t lose parking-ticket money.

Should we call this a "quota" or a "step up in production"?

The MTA eventually solved the "revenue" problem---and the quota/"production" problem---by hiring more parking control officers: the Examiner reported in 2010 that there were 275 in FY2009/2010, and it's reporting now that there are 325!

A parking control officer who retired several years ago, explained how it worked when he was hired:

I started in 1987, when we were still part of SFPD. Back then, it was about issuing as many citations as I could because that's what I was told I was being paid to do. We had a work performance average of 13.8 tickets per hour under SFPD.

Does anyone really think it's different now?

People in the neighborhoods are complaining about parking meters, but it's not just about the expense and nuisance of feeding meters, since, according to the Transportation Fact Sheet, the city makes a lot more from parking tickets ($88,889,809) than it does from the meters ($53,856,001).

The story explains how the system is stacked against people who get parking tickets:

Of the more than 1.5 million parking citations issued during fiscal year 2012-13, 77,248 were contested at the first level and 28 percent were upheld as invalid. In addition, 13,085 citations went on to the second level---a hearing---and 38 percent of those were deemed invalid. Mark Malec, who has in the past received an overtime parking citation when he exceeded the four hours, called the dismissal of his brother's unwarranted ticket "very surprising" and "very relieving. It's helpful because it shows that if you have the time and you can fight this, you have to," Mark Malec said. "Because the more you roll over and let it happen, the more they're going to take advantage."

28% of 77,248 is 21,629, and 38% of 13,085 is 4,972. Of more than 1.5 million parking tickets issued, only 26,601 were eventually found invalid!

How much time and how many trips to Muni offices did it take for Gary Malec to save himself $74?

"Taking advantage" of people who drive and park in San Francisco is what the system is about.

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Coming soon to San Francisco: Curbees

They have it in Chicago! Cyclists need to rest at the stop signs and stoplights that they can't ignore.