Revenue From D.C. Parking Tickets Dropped By Half During The Pandemic Fewer drivers were out and about due to the pandemic, and D.C. hasn't been enforcing parking and traffic rules as aggressively.
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Revenue From D.C. Parking Tickets Dropped By Half During The Pandemic

Fewer drivers in D.C. and more forgiving enforcement of traffic rules during the pandemic has meant less revenue for D.C. coffers. Mike Maguire/Flickr hide caption

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Mike Maguire/Flickr

One of D.C.'s most consistent cash cows has been a lot less productive during the pandemic.

The number of parking tickets and moving violations — and the revenue they bring in — took a dramatic dive in fiscal year 2020, which started in Oct. 2019 and ended last September.

According to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, the city issued 837,899 parking tickets in fiscal year 2020, down from almost 1.5 million the year prior. It also handed out 53,929 citations for moving violations, down from 91,194 the year before. As a result, possible revenue from parking tickets hit $62 million, down from $122 million the year before. Revenue from moving violations came in at $8.8 million, a decrease from the $16.5 million a year prior.

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The declines coincide largely with the pandemic, when people were more likely to be home, and after the city relaxed many of its traffic enforcement efforts. However, that didn't stop D.C.'s extensive and oft-criticized traffic cameras from continuing to do their job. The number of speed and red-light tickets doled out by the cameras stayed relatively steady at 1.3 million for the 2020 fiscal year, the same as the year prior. The expected revenue from these tickets declined slightly in that time, from $237 million in 2019 to $190 million in 2020. It's unclear exactly why, but it could be because drivers aren't driving as fast — lower-level speeding violations have lower fines associated with them.

The revenue from traffic tickets that were actually paid also decreased last year, to $166 million, down from $206 million the year prior.

One thing did remain constant, though — Maryland drivers still owe the most to D.C. in unpaid tickets.

Traffic enforcement has long been a consistent source of revenue for D.C. coffers, and city officials said last week that they'll eventually have to return to more consistent enforcement of parking rules and moving violations.

"At some point we are going to have to turn back on some of the revenue collection," said City Administrator Kevin Donahue during a D.C. Council hearing, addressing what's expected to be an almost $500 million budget deficit in the coming years.

But Donahue also said the city was aiming to be sensitive to the economic impacts the pandemic has had on many residents and workers.

"We recognize that there's more inequality and some of that enforcement can be regressive in nature," he said. "So when we turn it on, we have to look at our policies about how we do forgiveness and how we do payment plans so that someone who has not been impacted by the pandemic should be paying their tickets — they should be paying for meters — but someone who has been [impacted], we have to probably change how we approach some of our policies and allow some forgiveness there."

D.C. used to offer periodic amnesty periods, when drivers could pay off outstanding fines without any of the associated penalties that come with paying them late or not having paid them at all. But the last amnesty ran in 2012, and, currently, any parking, moving or traffic camera ticket that's not paid within 30 days doubles in value. In 2018, the D.C. Council passed a bill extending the period to 60 days before a ticket doubles, but the measure can't take effect until lawmakers find a way to pay for the lost revenue — more than $30 million a year.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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