What is going on out there – Rates up — Revenue Down?


What is going on out there – Rates up — Revenue Down?

As cities raise their parking fees, the expectation is that revenues would increase. Right? Well not so fast.  It seems that in two cities, San Francisco and Sacramento, the revenues are going DOWN?  What happened.

Are people parking less because of the high rates. Not really.  You can read the articles here and here. These articles aren’t well researched and don’t have a lot of hard facts, but it seems that fewer people are testing the rules and more people are paying for parking. Revenues are down because the number of citations written is down.

It doesn’t make sense, or does it. On first blush, it would seem that if you raised the rates, more people would be tempted to cheat.  However with increased rates came another phenomenon: a multitude of ways to pay, far beyond the requirement to carry a pocketful of quarters to ‘feed’ the meters.

New smart meters that take credit cards, pay by cell, coin, and in the case of multi space meters take banknotes and give change, drivers aren’t stuck searching through ash trays for coin or running to the nearest store for change.

It seems that once one gets past the shock of putting three bucks on your AMEX, it becomes easy. You slap your card in the meter, run it up to the maximum time, (some meters start at the maximum time) and you are on your way. No need to worry about that ticket.

So rather than people being inherently scofflaws, perhaps the real reason meters ran out of money and citations were issued was that folks simply didn’t have change and rather than find it, they rolled the parking meter dice.

Writing this makes me feel all warm and cuddly. There is hope for humanity yet. Sure I don’t like to get tickets,  but I really don’t mind paying if I can figure out how to do so. I rave about parking Nazis, but that’s because I got a ticket, not because I had to pay for parking.

Sure people complain about paying $4 to park, but they complain louder and longer about a $65 ticket.

What will cities do in the face of lower revenues. Frankly I’m not worried. They will find ways to get their paws into our wallets and purses. Not a problem.

All is right with the world.



Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

5 Responses

  1. We are just going to have to practice what we preach, thats its not about the revenue………..but a healthy system were people are paying and turning over the spaces should equate to more money spent in downtowns and thus more tax revenue. Parking may go down, but maybe sales tax goes up. Its just going to be tough to figure out the true impact.

  2. The goal of any parking enforcement program should be to promote “behavior change”, not to generate revenue. When cities try to plug budgets with $’s generated from parking tickets, red light cameras, etc they are actually putting themselves in a position of sending a message that says they are hoping their citizens break the law.

    It’s one of the many absurd aspects of how our government works.

  3. Refreshing news and also good comments by CJD and rta. To parking purists, it’s always been about the turnover, not the Benjamins, though many cities have reversed those priorities over the years.

    Still, it will be important to dig deeper into all of the key performance stats in the programs referenced to see if parking equilibrium has been achieved. The stats I’m talking about are the parking violation and capture rates, as well as the ticket collection and dismissal rates, in addition to the percents of optimum turnover.

    Presenting those stats will tell “the rest of the story”.

    1. If it is behavior directed then we have a problem with the merchants parking in front of their establishment . D o we go to Council and whine or to the Oxford Press?

  4. In our fair city, the State’s District Court adjudicates citations. For that service, the court keeps 50%. So, when more people pay for parking at the pay stations, the City makes more money. Our goal, then, is compliance rather than enforcement.

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