Thursday, June 11, 2015

Op-Ed by Bloomingdale resident Pat Ellis Mitchell: parking tickets increase in fines‏

This is from Bloomingdale resident Pat Mitchell:

Two Irrefutable Reasons the D.C. Council’s Decision to Increase Parking Fines is Dumb
By Patricia Ellis Mitchell,  Community Activist, Entrepreneur

The DC Council’s recent decision to increase the penalty for parking violations, as well as, increase the time that paid parking is required is short-sighted at best or  indolent at worst. 
Here’s the deal:  Why would you try to sustain the current business model – one that projects revenues based on motorists disobeying the law – that collapses if the habits of the customer (read, folks who park cars on the streets of D.C.) change, even slightly, not to mention the sea-change that has occurred since the arrival of the parking app, the bike app, the car app and the Uber app? 
Well, that’s exactly what the D.C. Council, in all its wisdom, is trying to do.   And how do they propose to sustain this obsolete business model?  By increasing the fines for citations, increasing the hours of operation and oh, yeah, presumably increasing the overtime or the number of employees required to carry out this misguided mission; that’s how.  Makes sense, right? 
Not only is the current business model unsustainable, if for no other reason than changing habits,  the  revenue projections for the department, instead of being based on the finite number of parking spaces, the cost of parking per hour and the number of daily hours of paid parking, has been based on a year-over-year increase, which is solely dependent on the ability of the department to continue to rack up citations (unwarranted and otherwise) through a system that has dramatically changed – forever!   Gone are the days of lugging around a sack full of quarters to feed the hungry beasts of the DDOT’s parking system.  As well they should be.  After all, this is the 21st Century. 
The real question is how has the initiation of the parking pay-by-app, the increase in bike ridership, the convenience of the ubiquitous and relatively cheap car-to-go, not to mention the tech-friendly, every-ready Uber, contributed to the decline in citations and penalties collected by the District?  Could it be that more motorists (especially D.C. motorists) are simply choosing to use other forms of transportation to avoid the District’s parking hawks?  You can’t blame the entire decrease in revenue on the parking app.  Newsflash:  Lifestyles in D.C., like it or not, have changed. 
The D.C. Council should be called-out for being so unthoughtful, if that’s a word, for not coming up with a better way to raise money.  Could it be that some councilmembers have been in office so long that they are clueless about the struggle D.C. residents and others who drive go through on a daily basis just to get around in this city? 
Here’s an idea that businesses use all the time when revenues decline:  They decrease personnel, decrease hours or a combination of both; not the other way around.  And before I get accused of having a Republican mindset (not that I care) in a Democratic city, let me just state that I am a business owner and a Democrat.  What I do know is when revenues shrink and costs continue to go up, I’ve got to either cut pay, cut staff, cut hours or a combination of all three.   And before anyone goes off half-cocked that I’m suggesting they fire people, there are any number of departments within D.C. Government that are based on need – rec center employees, like lifeguards, parks maintenance workers, school bus drivers and crossing guards, come immediately to mind – so certainly the case can be made that parking employees ought to be cyclical or as needed.  If demand goes down, manpower should go down.  It’s not rocket science. 

The real tragedy is that sooner, rather than later, drivers will get fed up with this parking vulture-like atmosphere that the current system has created and choose to rely on other options even more heavily or simply forgo parking on District streets altogether.  I know I have.  I suspect that then and only then will the Council be forced to come up with more thoughtful and sustainable solutions to a problem that’s only going to get worse if current trends continue, and start managing city funds as they  have been elected to do, without taking the easy way out – sticking it to the residents once again.    


  1. "The real tragedy is that sooner, rather than later, drivers will get fed up with this parking vulture-like atmosphere that the current system has created and choose to rely on other options even more heavily or simply forgo parking on District streets altogether."

    God forbid we have fewer cars on the streets, that would be really quite the tragedy. Less traffic, fewer pedestrian accidents, less impact on the environment, all those things sound terrible!

    Ms Mitchell apparently wants the government to provide free parking so it's easier for people to have cars. I would rather the government charge full price for street parking spaces (which are currently priced well below the market rate they could charge if they wanted to, especially in places like Adams Morgan where there is a dearth of street parking), at all hours. Making it harder to drive in the city actually benefits all of us, and if it happens to raise a bit of revenue in the process, that's just a side bonus.

  2. Not all of us can walk or bicycle or want to brave the uneven Metrobus service (especially in bad weather, hot or cold), and there are significant numbers of elderly residents in the city who essentially need to use their cars to do essentials (shopping, medical appts, socializing) and many others who don't use or can't use the new uber/wireless systems or who are not eligible for paratransit buses, etc. Demonizing car drivers is not a solution!

    1. Sure-- but increasing fines for expired meters doesn't demonize drivers. And disabled residents don't even pay at meters if they have a placard (and do get four hours of parking in two-hour spots), so this isn't really a change that applies to them. Making it more expensive for people to park illegally is exactly the kind of thing that helps drive out the most disruptive kind of driving (the kind where people take up parking spaces longer than their allotted time, or block important pedestrian ways, etc).

      If what Ms. Mitchell says about decreasing citations due to people using other kinds of transportation, avoiding parking illegally, or using apps rather than quarters is true, I see that as an unalloyed benefit. Fewer illegally parked cars is a good thing for our streets, and even helps those residents who really need to use parking spaces, as it means fewer people taking up spaces for more time than they need them.

    2. I could cut and paste the entirety of my comments as the opening salvo to a rebuttal of your arguments and nowhere would you find the statement or even the suggestion that I want parking in D.C. to be free. Nowhere. You missed the point entirely. I don't know for sure, but I would guess your opinion is of one who doesn't own a car...