San Franciscans Hurl Their Rage at Parking Patrol

Link: San Franciscans Hurl Their Rage at Parking Patrol

"They think they can take out their frustration on government in general" by abusing the [parking control] officers, who work 40-hour weeks for about $40,000 a year," she said, adding, "They say, ‘I’m tired of the city taking my money.’ "

There certainly is money in parking tickets. San Francisco issues 1.9 million parking citations and brings in more than $40 million a year from violators, according to the transportation agency.

There’s obviously no excuse for beating up a meter maid, but it’s also not the case that the assaults on parking enforcement officers in San Francisco are some sort of random happenstance. This NY Times piece (in which only union officials and "parking experts" are quoted) seems to imply that it’s Californians’ crazed affinity for cars that’s to blame. (This, by the way, is probably the millionth NY Times piece that uses some lazy, pointless and ultimately inaccurate cliche about the culture of the West as its launchpad.)

Anyway, if the "car crazy culture" bit were true, parking enforcement would be as manic and dangerous in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara as it is here. But it’s not. It’s a fact that our city does some very aggressive parking enforcement and consequently demands a lot from its meter maids/tax collectors. Anecdotal example #1: I’ve received at least five tickets parked in my own driveway in the past year. Example #2: Last year we got a ticket while we were repairing a flat tire. The meter maid didn’t even stop to see if we were OK, he just whizzed by and took down our license plate. If we’d been murdered in a drive-by shooting in front of a fire hydrant, would the meter maid have pinned the ticket to our corpses?

San Francisco is not a car-crazy city, at any rate. We love our public transit here (one of the reasons why we moved to our neighborhood is because it’s near a BART station). As the Times piece points out, the only thing wrong with public transit in San Francisco is that there isn’t enough of it, but on the other hand, no duh, that’s the problem with public transit in every city on the globe.

I’ve always wondered how parking enforcement might change if there weren’t a profit motive in it for the city, but I suppose that’s a pointless fantasy, since parking fines represent such a gigantic chunk of the city’s annual budget. (To put it in perspective, the $40 million in parking fines plus the $33 million in parking taxes pay for about 25% of the budget of the entire SF Police Department.) I realize that the money’s gotta come from somewhere, but taking it out of the pockets of people who happen to roll to a stop in front of a red curb after getting a flat tire seems sort of wrong to me.

End of embittered municipal rant. I thank you for permitting me to indulge myself.