70% of our Revenue Comes from Citations


70% of our Revenue Comes from Citations

Over on the IPMI member forum there is an interesting question posed. “What is the percentage breakdown between onstreet meter revenues and citation collections. The response was anywhere from 50/50 to 60/40 to as high as 30/70. That is, 30 percent of the revenues were from meters, 70 percent from citations. Wow!

There was also a long response about the abuse that PEOs take from the general public. To wit:

We have had them hit by vehicles, spit on, and one scofflaw picked up the enforcement bicycle and threw it into the street just in time for a car to hit it.  The treatment of our officers was so bad, as there seemed to be an incident occurring almost daily.  The officers had de-escalation training, and they removed themselves from the situation whenever it was possible.  Unfortunately, there were times that OPD had to be called for back-up.

With that said, we have been experiencing a sharp increase in the aggressiveness of these interactions recently, including an incident where a foreign substance was thrown on one of our officers.  While we are proud of the fact that we put an emphasis on de-escalation training and avoiding potential issues many situations present themselves abruptly and without warning which makes them unavoidable.

Historically, these types of aggressive interactions have been extremely isolated, but with the tension and anxiety levels continuing to rise, we are working on revising our training materials and procedures to focus on enhancing our officer safety in the field.

I’m no expert. But don’t we get what we dish out? If 70 percent, or even 50 percent of our revenue was from citations, are we asking ourselves just what are we doing wrong? What could we change in our approach to move the needle and get those numbers more in line.

I know that many enforcement operations run like mini police forces. Goals are set. PEOs must write a certain number of tickets per hour, day, week. In some cases, the enforcement units have simply given up and mail the tickets to the vehicle owner. That way there is no interaction between PEOs and the public.

I strongly recommend you read the piece by Julie Dixon’s group in the upcoming edition of Parking Today. Here’s just a hint:

Consider if the language is clear to anyone not familiar with the area. The value of a proactive education and outreach campaign should also not be overlooked, and this may include marketing materials, press releases, online information, and public meetings. The more our customers understand the regulations, the more compliance we achieve. In a perfect world, we would not issue any parking citations because everyone would comply. However, this is not the reality, and we need to invest in and train our parking enforcement personnel to become effective customer service representatives of the parking program.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. As I was reading this I was formulating my thoughts on what might be my reply. Then I got to your comments And realized yours were the exact same as mine. If 50 to 70% of your revenue is coming from violations at some point you should maybe think we need to reevaluate our whole operation. I am not an onstreet expert, never ran an onstreet operation and only audited a few over the years so I’ve tended to stay away from discussions of on street meter operations except to say i believe they have out lived their usfullness. After reading this I think maybe I’ve made a mistake because someone not that close to The on street meter business may need to take a look at this from a whole different perspective. The escalation training and a change in the signs is not what’s going to solve this problem. Ginny and I were parking in downtown somewhere 6 months ago and the 1st meter we pulled up to Had a problem, I don’t remember what the problem was but We moved to another meter and had some additional problems but decided that we had enough quarters so we paid with quarters. The only problem was the meter only took 2 of the quarters it would not take the rest and we decided just to leave. She got a ticket, contested it and lost and was told she had to pay her $40 fine. Let’s see in this particular case we had 2 meters that were not working and an appeals process that didn’t work so maybe we need to relock at the whole operation.

    I’m dictated this on my cell so don’t laugh at my mistakes.

  2. Are people in general becoming more unhinged during these latter days? You bet: just listen to your local news for a few minutes every day.

    Can conflict avoidance seminars for officers and better / clearer signs help? Maybe, but in reality, they miss the mark and don’t get at one of the main reasons for the problems related above.

    Dig deeper and you’ll find the root cause lies in city government. That’s right: city government / the elected officials. Why? By adopting trendy mobility policies and shoving municipal budget goals down the throat of the parking agency, they’ve decreased the parking supply while increasing its price.

    Sounds like bad economics to me.

    Valid safety and traffic movement concerns aside, there simply are fewer on-street spaces today compared to ten years ago, especially in downtowns. That contention is part data and part personal experience. Prove me wrong.

    Compare your on-street metered space inventory of today versus that of ten or twelve years ago. How many metered spaces have been removed for bike lanes, bus-only lanes, rental bike parking zones, restaurant seating, valet zones, authorized zones for city workers, etc. (“You know, the thing…”)

    And quantifiable ticket projections based on surveyed turnover, violation and capture rates are NOT the problem. Unreasonable ticket fines in the face of a shrinking legal supply are.

    Anybody who’s been in parking administration or consulting for those brave souls will tell you that “the number” comes down from on high (city hall) and ‘we’ve got to figure out a way to meet it.’ Sometimes the ways are reasonable and valid: expand coverage areas and times, and adjust meter rates and fines to incentivize compliance and the use of off-street parking. (Though we all know off-street prices have stood still over the years, right?)

    But sometimes the ticket fines are not reasonable or justifiable, and ticket fines and penalties are pushed off course by that strong wind from above and they “depart controlled flight.” Clyde and other flyboys will get that reference. Translation for the ground-pounders: fines of all sorts may have a tendency to reach unreasonable and undefendable levels.

    Cases in point: twenty years ago two famous cities infamously raised parking fines for the stated reasons of: 1) covering a budget deficit, and 2) building a new court house. Care to guess which ones? If you say “DC and LA”, then you’ve really been around for a while and may be joining me in retirement soon. If this was happening twenty years ago (and it WAS happening everywhere), then what’s going on these days, in your town?

    So picture it: give too strong a kick in the pocket-book for somebody who’s tried and tried but couldn’t even find a legal parking space to begin with (sorry for the poor grammar, Barbara), and it might set off even the most mild-mannered parking customer.

    Now that I’m no longer in the family business after 30+ years, I can say “you guys” have allowed your supply to be reduced while fines have escalated beyond the parking equilibrium price point, which effectively has put the parking customer in a bad space (pun intended), considering real-world economic and societal pressures. No wonder confrontations and assaults are up.

    In the end, what we have here is a perfect storm, and maybe a ‘failure to communicate’ to city fathers – to borrow a line from a Paul Newman movie that opens with him cutting off meter poles – that it’s time to say ‘enough is enough’ and restore a bit of sanity to the curb by restoring some of the legal supply while taking a hard look at lowering some of the ticket prices.

    And a hard look at the circumstances behind each confrontation or assault – including the type and cost of the infraction, wouldn’t hurt either.

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