Tuesday, July 3, 2018

St. Louis Wrote 300K Parking Tickets in 2017 — More Than KC, Indy and Nashville Combined

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 3:12 PM

click to enlarge DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • DANNY WICENTOWSKI

Parking enforcement in the city of St. Louis generates millions of dollars every year, outstripping other comparable metro areas in terms of tickets issued — and it's not even close.

In 2017, meter agents and police officers in St. Louis wrote 305,217 parking tickets. Considering the city itself has a population of around 300,000, that's nearly one ticket for every resident.


That head-turning ratio was highlighted last night in an KMOV investigation by reporter Lauren Trager. That story wasn't just about the numbers, but rather framed around a motorist who'd been hit with a ticket for parking more than twelve inches from the curb.

That particular violation turns out to be a fairly rare occurrence — the Treasurer's Office told the station that in the past three years it issued only 3,746 tickets for parking too far off the curb. That's a tiny fraction, less than one percent, of the total tickets written. Far more common are tickets for not feeding the meter (and, lately, we suspect, a bunch for people ignoring the rules on the city's newfangled back-in angle parking).

And that's where St. Louis stands out in the crowd. As KMOV's Trager noted, St. Louis' parking ticket numbers don't fit with other Midwestern urban centers: Kansas City, with a population of 480,000, issued only 18,000 parking tickets last year. Nashville, whose population of 680,000 more than doubles St. Louis city's, wrote just 50,000 parking tickets. And Indianapolis, population 860,000, issued 91,408 tickets.

Obviously, KMOV's story and numbers don't make St. Louis look particularly good, and the city official overseeing the city's parking enforcement, Treasurer Tishaura Jones, apparently refused to grant Trager an interview for the piece.

However, Jones did take to Facebook before the story aired last night. In her post, Jones slammed Trager and KMOV for returning to their "regular antics" involving Jones and the Treasurer's office. Jones has been the subject of multiple investigative pieces from media outlets (and Trager in particular) focusing on parking revenue, take-home cars and travel expenses, and she hasn't appreciated the coverage, to say the least.

We tried calling Jones earlier today, but were transferred to a phone that rang without ever giving us voicemail. A message left for her chief of staff was not returned as of press time.

In the Facebook post, Jones made it pretty clear that she doesn't want anything to do with Trager.

"If Lauren Trager investigated crime the way she tries to find BS on my office, the number of unsolved crimes would be cut in half," Jones wrote. "There are a lot of unsolved mysteries in this city, the parking division isn’t one of them."

Jones' post referenced an email, apparently sent to KMOV, that offered additional context and comparisons regarding St. Louis' parking operations. Rather than weaken Trager's thesis, however, it only seemed to burnish the reporter's point — that St. Louis issues a disproportionate amount of tickets for a city of its size.

In the email text included in the Facebook post, Jones started off by noting that St. Louis actually reduced the number of parking meters since 2015, from 10,000 to 7,800. The email also pointed out that technology upgrades to the meters — allowing payments via card and smart phone apps — had the effect of reducing the number of tickets "by about 80,000." So, hey: You think 305,217 tickets is bad? St. Louis used to write even more.

Then Jones came to the issue of Kansas City, Nashville and Indianapolis.

"While the cities might be similar in population or other attributes, there are differences in parking systems and enforcement," she wrote, "which means the numbers you [Trager] shared are not a true 'apples to apples.'"

But do these "differences in parking systems and enforcement" cast St. Louis' sky-high number of traffic tickets in a better light? In a word: no.

"Other cities have less parking meters than St. Louis, which results in those cities issuing less parking tickets than St. Louis," the email continues.

In addition, Jones notes that Kansas City doesn't use special parking enforcement officers to issue tickets, while Indianapolis "uses police officers for parking ticket enforcement on a limited basis."

In St. Louis, which has its own force of meter agents, Jones writes that police officers issue "about 15 percent of parking tickets."

Jones also included a breakdown of the other cities' parking enforcement data and policies. Again, these numbers only seem to emphasize the fact that St. Louis not only issues parking citations at an astounding rate, but it maintains a far larger infrastructure of parking meters and agents to generate those tickets. Even if the number of meters has been reduced, St. Louis' 7,800 meters isn't even close to the other cities: Kansas City has 1,500, Nashville has 2,000 and Indianapolis has 3,800.

For reference, here's Jones' breakdown of the four city's parking enforcement:
St. Louis
Population: 311,404
2017 Citations: 305,217 (down from 380k)
Number of Parking Meters: 7,800
Type of Parking Enforcement: Parking Enforcement and Police
Parking Meter Enforcement Hours: Monday-Saturday from 8a-7p
About 15 percent of parking tickets are written by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Kansas City
Population: 481,420
2017 Citations: 17,911
Number of Parking Meters: 1,500
Type of Parking Enforcement: The Kansas City Police Department enforces on-street parking.
Parking Meter Enforcement Hours: Weekdays from 7a to 6p
http://northeastnews.net/…/parking-enforcement-set-escalat…/

Indianapolis
Population: 859,204
2017 Citations: 91,408
Number of Parking Meters: 3,800
Type of Parking Enforcement: Parking Enforcement and Police
Parking Meter Enforcement Hours: Monday-Saturday from 7a-8p
The police do not allocate many resources to parking violations in Indy and only spend limited hours throughout the week.

Nashville
Population: 659,042
2017 Citations: 49,928
Number of Parking Meters: 2,000
Type of Parking Enforcement: Parking Enforcement and Police
Parking Meter Enforcement Hours: Monday-Saturday from 8a-6p
Parking Meters are placed throughout the Central Business District and western sections of the city, including West End Avenue to 31st Avenue and the Vanderbilt Hospital area.
Parking citations are issued by the Public Works Parking Patrol and Metro Nashville Police Department Officers. Fines vary based on the violation. On-street parking regulations are enforced by Public Works Parking Patrol Officers. They patrol meters, loading zones, fire hydrants and other restricted parking areas.

Now, it's worth noting that all these tickets do generate revenue for St. Louis (which clearly needs it). According to a document posted on the Treasurer's Office website, nearly $6 million was collected from parking meters in 2016. (Adding in city-owned lots raises that number to about $20 million annually.)

But that number comes with a caveat: In the past, Jones has cited a state law that bars her from sending more than 40 percent of the parking meter revenue to the city general fund. The rest of the money has been kept in reserve, and a portion has also been used to fund Jones' initiatives surrounding her Office of Financial Empowerment.

The state law blocking the city from getting its hands on more parking revenue has long been a source of contention in city government. In April, a circuit judge ruled that state laws restricting the city's parking revenue were unconstitutional. (Jones is appealing.)

Meanwhile, the fight over that revenue continues to be waged between Jones and other city officials, but there have been moments of respite in the ongoing feud: Last month Jones facilitated a budget compromise by agreeing to supply $10 million to the city’s general reserve fund, as well as the $800,000 needed to retain Neighborhood Stabilization Officer positions that were otherwise in danger of being cut.

That's all well and good for the city's bottom line this year. But as Jones herself readily admitted, the number parking tickets in the city of St. Louis vastly exceed that of other cities. As long as that trend persists, it's ultimately local motorists who are footing the bill.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

  • Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.
  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2018 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation