Plagued by staffing shortages, the Department of Parking and Traffic is issuing fewer parking tickets than in previous years, a deficiency that has come under criticism as The City’s transportation agency once again considers a slew of parking citation and meter increases to close a projected budget shortfall.
Parking fines were hiked two years ago, with increases ranging from $15 for some violations and as much as $65 for others. However, parking fines are expected to drop by $4 million as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni and oversees the Department of Parking and Traffic, faces a $15.1 million shortfall.
About $84 million in revenue from citations is projected to come in this year, whereas last fiscal year citations brought in $88.2 million, according to the Board of Supervisors legislative analyst report.
The report further stated that only 22.3 percent of the maximum potential revenue is being collected from The City’s parking meters.
Staffing shortages and the possibility that the recently hiked fines are working as a deterrent are reasons for the decline, according to the report. "The increased fine rates might have had a larger deterrent effect than anticipated, leading to significantly fewer violations," according to the report.
The number of citations issued has decreased steadily since 2000 according to MTA statistics. Projections show DPT will have issued the fewest number of citations this fiscal year than any other year during the last decade.
In fiscal year 2004-05, 2.2 million citations were issued, but that number dropped off to 1.9 million in fiscal year 2005-06, and is projected to decrease to 1.8 million citations issued by the end of the current fiscal year, according to the memo.
The issuance of citations may have also gone down because parking control officers are beingmore often called on to perform traffic control duties, such as at protests, parades and when traffic signals go out, according to MTA spokeswoman Maggie Lynch.
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said it does not make sense to raise meter rates or citations when better enforcement could generate more money. McGoldrick said the DPT "needs to beef up enforcement to make sure people deposit money in the meters."
McGoldrick, who requested a hearing on Wednesday on parking meter revenue collection, said doubling potential revenue being collected from parking meters would generate $10 million.
The raising of rates was also met with resistance from one MTA Board Director Wil Din, who suggested during Tuesday’s preliminary budget hearing, that improved enforcement, not rate increases, was the solution to the agency’s revenue shortage.
MTA Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said during the hearing that the DPT is operating with a shortage of 93 parking control officers. As part of next year’s budget, MTA is hoping to bring on board 50 new officers.
"They definitely need more people. There’s overtime every week. If no one is there to write that ticket they won’t get written," said Lawanna Preston, staff director for Service Employee International Union Local 790, which represents the 350 parking control officers in The City. Preston said hiring 93 officers would put the DPT at an optimal level for enforcement.
Budget woes and hiring freezes in previous years led to the shortage of parking control officers, Lynch said.