Snow is Green: Tickets Mean Revenue

By , January 25, 2012 8:56 am

Even with nearly 100 vehicles towed and 500 parking tickets issued during last weekend’s snow event, some streets appeared to have not gotten the memo that there was a street parking ban in effect.

Lt. Chris Mefferd, the Police Department’s Traffic Division Commander, said “vehicles parked on the street were issued tickets, announcements were made over the loudspeaker instructing residents to move their vehicles, and vehicles that were not removed were towed. Through this process, we made our best effort to gain voluntary compliance before initiating tow operations to ensure efficient plowing and clearing of city streets.”

This was not the case for every city street. On Tuesday, some were still not plowed to the curb; in Hartford, Saturday’s “storm” left only a few inches of snow, making removal of it far less daunting of a task than what the City dealt with last January. The October 2011 storm, which left about a foot of snow in the city, did not inspire officials to treat on-street parking with the degree of seriousness that a few inches of powder over the weekend apparently warranted.

On streets where vehicles were towed during last year’s storms, it seems few knew about the latest parking ban, or if they had, the experience of retrieving one’s vehicle after towing had not been inconvenient enough to create a lasting impact on residents’ behaviors.

The threat of a ticket will steer some motorists toward doing the right thing, but others can just shrug it off.

Just last March, desperate to collect on the $18 million in unpaid tickets, the Hartford Parking Authority held a month-long ticket amnesty program. They collected around $370,000.

What happens with all these unpaid tickets?

When it comes time to renew a vehicle’s registration, the DMV can refuse to allow this to happen. But, as the HPA Board discussed in October 2011, the hold is placed on the plate, rather than on the individual choosing not to pay up. Sometimes, the DMV ignores unpaid tickets and motorists are still able to renew.

And some motorists, like those who know what the parking restrictions are and choose to actively ignore them, are not going to let the threat of an unregistered vehicle shift their behaviors.

In October 2011, the HPA was given the news, through Corporation Counsel, that they could be more aggressive in collecting unpaid tickets:

Minutes from the November HPA Board Meeting

A memo to HPA Commissioners included in the minutes from the November HPA Board Meeting. The left column is labeled "What We Learned" and the right column is labeled as the "Action Plan."

Being nagged by a collections agent has the potential to pressure ticket recipients into taking responsibility.

In a press release on Tuesday, Mayor Segarra boasted of the number of tickets issued and vehicles towed over the weekend. Is this heightened enforcement a show of Mayor Segarra’s commitment to well-maintained streets, or is it merely another vein for potential income?

Just over one year ago, the HPA Board was bemoaning how “December was HPA‘s least profitable month for parking ticket revenue with a negative variance of $127,757.” They had previously documented that December 2009 was also a low point in the year for issuing tickets. From the January 2011 minutes, it appears that in spite of this lull, the HPA Board was hopeful:  “Mr. McGovern stated that this figure will eventually be offset by the large amount of manual tickets issued by Hartford Police Department (HPD) during the January parking ban events.”

Tickets issued for parking ban violations are $99 apiece.

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