NYC’s Parking Ticket Deals Cost Millions That Could Be Used for Street Safety

When the city zeroes out the cost of undisputed tickets for delivery companies as part of a special program to reduce the cost of parking violations, it’s also giving them a pass on a fee required by the state. That surcharge funds anti-drunk driving programs, among other initiatives, and advocates say the city and state could be missing out on tens of millions of dollars each year.

FedEx likely isn't paying a dime for double parking. Photo: Stephen Miller
FedEx likely isn’t paying a dime for double parking. That has implications for funding the state’s anti-DWI initiatives, while the city is missing out on money that could be used for Vision Zero. Photo: Stephen Miller

The special parking ticket programs in question, known as the Stipulated Fine and Commercial Abatement programs, have given companies that sign up an automatic discount on the cost of parking violations since first launching in 2004.

“We’ve taken issue with the stipulated fine program before,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, “[for] essentially giving large freight haulers or delivery companies incentives to break parking laws.”

Most parking tickets are discounted under the program. Up to 30 violations, including double parking, have had their fines reduced to $0, according to data collected by parking watchdog Glen Bolofsky of ParkingTicket.com.

In a letter sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio today [PDF], TA questioned whether the city is collecting the $15 fee for tickets that have been reduced to $0. State law requires the surcharge in addition to any other fine that may be levied.

“We are in full compliance with the law,” said Department of Finance spokesperson Sonia Alleyne. “The $15 surcharge is collected on EVERY summons or fine that is paid — even the abated ones. It’s automatically included.”

I asked if the city collects the $15 fee on tickets that have been reduced to $0. “No,” Alleyne replied.

Once collected by the city, the $15 surcharge is split between the city and the state. At the state level, it is administered through the Justice Court Fund, which spends it on “legal services for indigent defendants, crime victims’ services, and driving while intoxicated (DWI) education programs,” according to a 2010 report by the state comptroller [PDF].

In its letter, TA urges the city to use its portion of the surcharge revenue on speed enforcement and other Vision Zero initiatives, such as driver education and crackdowns on failure to yield to pedestrians and other violations.

Bolofsky estimates that three million of the city’s approximately 10 million annual traffic tickets go through the Stipulated Fine or Commercial Abatement programs. That means up to $45 million in uncollected surcharges each year, though the number is likely lower since not all violations are reduced to $0 under the program.

“It does appear that in their rush to give discounts to large carriers, that they have potentially been missing out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue for various life-saving programs,” White said. “It’s another reason why they should end the preferential treatment of pervasive lawbreakers.”

  • 082071

    Ban all mail & package delivery. Problem solved. If you want or need to get a package, go pick it up yourself. Smart & simple, right?

  • J_12

    when we say everyone, we mean 99.999% of everyone who doesn’t live completely off the grid. If you are one of that small minority, you don’t live in a city anyway and street parking isn’t an issue for you.

  • J_12

    you are right that delivery trucks need to park close to their destination. large parts of our economy depend on fast and inexpensive delivery provided by ups and fedex.
    expecting them to spend extra time walking the last few blocks to the destination is not realistic.

    however, there are much better solutions than just dealing with double parking and charging a nominal fee. double parking is dangerous, and setting the right price is difficult for a good that is not supposed to be available.

    it would be much better if curbside space were allocated better. a lottery based on the amount of time you can spend looking for parking is not efficient. curbside space should be priced at its market value. delivery zones might be a public good, or they might be something that, at least on certain blocks, the city should sell to the highest bidder such as dedicated UPS only curb space during certain hours.

  • J_12

    in the short term you are probably right, but people adapt pretty quickly and I don’t think it would take too long for people to reprice the costs of owning a private car. Some would be willing to just spend more time dealing with parking, some would be willing to pay for off-street parking, and some would find it no longer worth it to keep the car.

  • JudenChino

    I live in Lower Manhattan. I benefit from commercial drivers who deliver goods for which I’m an end user. And I am willing to bear the costs associated with the appropriate fines being levied. I never suggested anything to the otherwise. I oppose a blanket discount.

  • 082071

    You’re willing, other aren’t. There must be a better way to deal w/parking issues, other than hampering deliveries, commerce, & the economy. Besides, roads/streets are paid for & maintained by taxes. Businesses pay taxes, too. When delivery companies park & deliver packages, (which is beneficial to many many people) that doesn’t cost the city anything. Delivery companies aren’t getting anything from taxpayers or the city. The city is simply choosing to accept less extortion money. So even if the city settled for $1, (instead of $10 million) they’re still $1 ahead.
    At the end of the day, the city is $10 million richer, for doing absolutely nothing. (that is if you consider hampering deliveries, commerce, & the economy, to be “nothing”)

  • neroden

    I think we just found out why double parking is endemic in New York City. By reducing the fine to $0 they’ve made it legal.

    The city needs to establish actual loading zones, and then ban double-parking.

  • neroden

    Double parking is a danger to pretty much everyone. The city needs to actually establish loading zones.

  • neroden

    “Every block” is an exaggeration. The FedEx guy is quite capable of walking down the street.

    A few of the crosstown streets in Manhattan are super busy and would need loading zones for practically their entire length. But many of the crosstown streets in Manhattan would not need loading zones at all.

    I’d actually suggest converting all the parking along the avenues in Manhattan to loading zones. That would probably be sufficient to cover most of the truck loading & unloading, without requiring huge numbers of loading zones on the crosstown streets.

  • neroden

    God, they actually legalized double parking? That explains the horrendous traffic situation in NYC.

  • neroden

    Yet another example of criminal conspiracy by the NYPD. Someone routinely parks illegally, the police refuse to do anything about it, because THE POLICE ARE CRIMINALS.

  • neroden

    Nowhere else in the entire world has this system, to my knowledge.

  • Kevin Love

    Meaning that the sky would definitely not fall if the placard system were abolished in NYC.

  • 082071

    Well, I’m never seen anyone double parked to death in my area. Is “death by double parking” a big problem in NYC? Does it happen a lot there? Are there any support groups for victims of double parking?

  • Andrew

    I have no idea if this led to death (I hope not!), but a few days ago I watched as an ambulance had to stop and wait several minutes for a double parker to move his car. To add insult to (potential) injury, the double parked car was adjacent to an empty curbside space – the driver was (apparently) simply too lazy to pull up to the curb.

  • 082071

    Yes, you’re right. Also, the headline of the article is highly misleading. “Parking Ticket Deals Cost (the city) Millions”. BS! Streets are funded w/taxes. (from both people & businesses) That ticket money is just money that is extorted from people. If the city earns even just $1, they are still $1 ahead. So they settled for (only) $10 MILLION in extortion money. Boo Hoo for them.

  • Andrew

    You know, if you don’t want to pay parking tickets, there’s a way to avoid getting them. Parking tickets are completely optional.

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