Parking tickets by the truckload

Let me get this straight: faced with international corporations who repeatedly and blatantly violate the law, and have the balls to publicly state that violating the law is part of their business plan, the local government's response is to make it cheaper and easier for those companies to continue breaking the law?

This article is from 2007, but I assume the situation has only gotten more ridiculous since then.

18 S.F. businesses rack up thousands of citations, pay city on monthly plan

San Francisco began its corporate program in 1998. The intent was twofold: help companies doing regular business in San Francisco manage their tickets, and streamline the collection process, said Maggie Lynch, spokeswoman for the MTA.

Companies can enroll if they have at least 20 vehicles that park on city streets and if they have what Lynch described as "a history of citations." The participating firms are billed monthly and cannot protest the tickets. In return, they avoid late fees and having their vehicles clamped with immobilizing boots when a vehicle accrues five or more parking tickets.

"Drivers used to hide their citations from management, so companies would not know of a problem until vehicles were booted or towed," Lynch said. [...]

Delivery companies enrolled in the program are the biggest parking violators, accruing almost $1.3 million in fines. [...]

"I get tickets all the time, probably three or four a week," said Gonzalez, who has 10 years on the job.

Most of his tickets are for double parking. On the Bryant Street run, a passenger car was parked in front of the building where Gonzalez was making a delivery. There were a number of empty metered spaces on the block, but Gonzalez said it would have taken too much time to squeeze his truck into one of them. [...]

"This is part of the price of doing business," said Jim McCluskey, a spokesman for FedEx, which paid San Francisco $434,046 for 7,711 tickets [in 2006]. "We encourage our operators to park legally, but we also need to meet the needs of our customers who want reliable, on-time service."

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21 Responses:

  1. The profit motive cannot be trusted, either privately or publicly.

    We're facing similar problems here (Toronto, ON), albeit on a much smaller scale*. Nobody here seems to have a clear picture of what an effective enforcement plan would look like, which is frustrating: I suspect the intent of various non-automobile traffic laws has been lost, and therefore all enforcement ends up in this black hole of revenue maximization and smooth-car-flow prioritization.

    * (The Ford Brothers' term of driver-centric traffic policy certainly didn't help, but Toronto just isn't that big.)

  2. Jason McHuff says:

    I see the article mentions empty meter spots, but is a lack of legal parking places (including loading zones) any part of the problem?

    Up here in Portland, a UPS truck has been the most-ticketed vehicle.

  3. Oh. That explains it.

  4. Oh. That explains it.

  5. cthulhu says:

    Crony capitalism at its finest!

    • bd says:

      Not sure I follow - they get tickets and make it part of their business model. I don't understand what alternative everyone is proposing - not allow UPS or Fedex to operate within the city limits? Or pass the costs onto the people who live there or slow down deliveries so much they take a few extra days? I am sure as businesses they would rather have that million dollars in parking tickets back each year. Cronyism? It sounds like they pay like everyone else - they just pay all at once to save the city having to cash 10,000 checks a month. I think both sides win there - even if the bikers lose. This is not some zero sum game - everyone who buys from Amazon wins, bikers lose. Put "no more amazon prime shipment to the city but bikers can ride easier" on the ballot and what is the result? I seriously doubt it passes. Don't see how that crony capitalism and not "stupidly designed city."

      • jwz says:

        The reason there is a fine for parking illegally is to discourage people from parking illegally. This is clearly not working for these repeat offenders who have the gall to say out loud that their business model includes intentionally breaking these laws. That means the fines are underpriced. The fix is obvious: increase fines for commercial vehicles until they are no longer underpriced. There's nothing unusual about increasing punishment for recidivists.

        Apparently SF and NYC chose the exact opposite approach: decrease the fines instead. How well is that working out? Not very. How did that happen, and who stands to benefit? I could make some guesses, and it involves the word "lobbyist".

        Why should UPS get to break the law and I don't? Because they can afford to. The invisible hand works! Previously.

        • bd says:

          I agree with your solution - that would definitely help. But I also disagree about lobbyists - the effect of this isn't to enrich UPS / FedEx / lobbyists but to keep shipping rates low. There isn't some other carrier or interest that benefits here. As someone who ships things every day I assure you both carriers are capable of and happy to price shipping with "what it really costs." The issue here is that changes would in fact raise shipping prices significantly. That would anger normal people using amazon (if there is a "normal person" is SF proper) and increase business costs across the board. I don't think it'd take an army of lobbyists to keep that from happening - I think "the normal break and circuses" populace would revolt, and keep your $1000 chronic commercial parking ticket from becoming reality. So they can continue to order shit from amazon they should be buying from a store across the street.

          • jwz says:

            Unless the local government is on UPS's payroll, it's not their job to give a shit about UPS's margins. Their job is to enforce the law, for the safety of the citizens. And yet, their actions show that they prioritize "a corporation's expenses might increase" over "fewer people would die".

            Follow the money.

            • bd says:

              Last comment - I think you're being disingenuous to suggest it's margins or UPS/FedEx's profit. If SF made the change you suggest shipping would just be 10x more expensive. Because if you don't double-park, it means some new radical way of moving shit around (they don't park nicely because they can't). There's no "" that's only a few bucks more. So the only effect (aside from much safer biking) is to make shipping significantly more expensive, which actually impacts some residents and most local business large and small. Which I agree is totally fine and would probably work out - but I think to suggest this has to do with UPS / FedEx and not "the costs borne by all the businesses who rely on not insanely expensive shipping" is incorrect. Everyone hit with 10x more expensive shipping would descend upon city hall and UPS wouldn't even have to pay a lobbyist.

              • jwz says:

                10x? [citation needed].

                I constantly -- constantly, every day -- see delivery trucks blocking the bike lane, or traffic lane, when open parking spaces and loading zones exist 20' or 30' away. It's not like they'd say "welp, I guess I'm not delivering anything today."

                But if your right that the entire global economy would collapse if these companies had to obey the law just like us little people do, then change the fucking law. Make it explicit to the electorate that UPS's profit margins are more important than human lives.

              • Dave Pease says:

                I'm skeptical of the "if it costs them more money they will charge you more money for their services" argument. They'll charge you as much as they can, regardless of what their costs are.

              • If shipping suuddenly got 10x more expensive in SF, I suspect "" would look a lot more like a viable business idea than it does today.

            • fd says:

              Mistake #1: Thinking your government has your interests in mind.

              They do not.

              Mistake #2: Thinking your government has the shipping companies' interests in mind.

              They do not.

              Your government has its own revenue stream in mind.

              Follow the money, indeed.

        • Rodger says:

          Where I live, cars blocking the bus lanes get towed, which seems like an even better solution than fines. Have fun when your delivery van is locked up for the night!

        • Chris says:

          "The invisible hand works!"

          Despite these Jabs, it's striking how much the rest of what you say sounds directly influenced by Milton Friedman and Hayek.

        • Michael S. says:

          I'd be happy to let some businesses park in areas others can't. I think it's okay for removal companies to get a special permit to park in my street for one day a year while I'm moving house, for example. But delivery companies probably shouldn't be parking in bike lanes or bus lanes. (Maybe ambulances should, though.) But in this and other things, I'd prefer the law to be fixed, rather than being worked around by being not enforced.

        • Mike says:

          Parking fines are an established revenue stream for the city which, having become part of the budget, has to be managed and optimised. If you want to solve this problem then parking fines first need to be ring-fenced and distributed, perhaps to all block residents. Without that happening parking fines will be 'optimised' to just below the level at which it becomes cost-effective for delivery companies to work around them - most likely by operating two-man vehicles.

  6. J. Peterson says:

    Do DNA Pizza's delivery guys ever get parking tickets? How do you handle them?

    • jwz says:

      You have no idea how much time we waste chasing delivery drivers and taxis out of the bike lane in front of DNA. Every Friday and Saturday night, I lose an entire employee to doing nothing but yelling at fuckhead Uber drivers.

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