Parking fines no longer pay the city’s bills

The city of Los Angeles’ traffic enforcement division use to generate $20 million of net income.  For the past five years, fines from parking tickets generated over $617 million for the city, but the parking and traffic enforcement division cost more than $809 million to operate. Although FY 2017 was the first year the division’s costs outweighed ticket revenue, the traffic enforcement division has continued to operate in a deficit. The office had a shortfall of $5.7 million in FY 2017, which grew to $64.4 million by the end of FY 2020. Over the years, traffic officers have taken over responsibilities beyond writing tickets; they also provide traffic safety control hours for citywide projects which have taken up an increasing portion of their time. The 2020 pandemic has only made the issue worse. During the first eight months of the year, the city suspended numerous parking regulations, and the number of tickets issued fell by 155,000 in just three months. Having ticket revenue as a line item in the city’s budget has caused some to argue that the city citation program creates perverse incentives and compliance with parking restrictions is not the program’s primary mission.

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Cari Spencer