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UPDATE: City’s Stipulated Fine Program Costing Taxpayers Tens of Millions More!

U.S. Postal Service drivers have no respect for vehicle rules. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

A city program that reduces parking fines against large delivery companies actually cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more last year than the millions revealed in a recent Independent Budget Office report, Streetsblog has learned.

Last week, an IBO audit estimated that the largest firms saved about $10 million in summonses last year from the city's Stipulated Fine Program, which reduces the ticket price on virtually all parking violations (a truck double-parking ticket, for example, costs $115 for truck companies that don't participate in the program, but only $35 for companies in the program).

But the IBO audit only calculated such ticket reductions — it did not calculate the lost revenue from parking tickets that were fully reduced to $0. The total value of those $0 tickets in 2017 was $23,049,710 — and just for the top 12 companies, according to a previously unreleased document made available to Streetsblog.

The biggest beneficiary of the $0 tickets has been the United Parcel Service. According to the IBO report, the delivery company saved about $3.2 million in tickets, thanks to the reductions granted under the Stipulated Fine Program in fiscal year 2018. But according to documents reviewed by Streetsblog, the company also saved $12.4 million in tickets that were completely dismissed in calendar year 2017, which overlaps the fiscal year.

Federal Express had $4.6 million in year 2017 tickets that were zeroed out. Verizon and Verizon Corporate Services saved another $2.5 million. And Time-Warner saved $1.6 million. (See chart of the top five companies below.)

Source: Independent Budget Office/City documents

And that's just calendar year 2017. In 2015, the largest trucking companies saved $20,081,440 in tickets that were reduced to zero. In 2016, it was $20,743,555. (One mitigating factor: Just as in the IBO report, these dollar figures represent the full value of the fully dismissed ticket under the Stipulated Fine Program; if the companies did not participate in the program, they would have fought many, if not all, of these tickets in court — and perhaps won.)

The city has long defended the 15-year-old program because it requires participating companies to pay some of the fine in exchange for not fighting tickets in court — where they might be reduced to $0 anyway. But opponents say that the Stipulated Fine Programs gives trucking companies no incentive to park legally or to lobby the city to create proper loading zones that would allow delivery workers to do their job without blocking other vehicles — a main root cause of congestion in the city.

Also, double- and illegally parked trucks cause a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. There are multiple Twitter accounts devoted to exposing FedEx, United States Postal Service, and all the other truckers that park in bike lanes as a result of the Stipulated Fine Program (or, in the case of the postal service, freedom from paying any fines at all.)

Going forward, the city expects that the number of fully zeroed-out tickets will decline considerably, thanks to a major reform of the program in December that is reducing the number of tickets that will be reduced fully to $0.

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