And You Wonder Why I named it the “Baghdad by the Bay” Award

The Late, Sainted, San Francisco Examiner columnist Herb Caen called the city Baghdad by the Bay to honor its exotic mix of cultures and politics. I picked the name for my parking disaster award because the city seems to have lead the world in parking stories which might not be so great.  The latest:

Scofflaws owe San Francisco $38M in unpaid parking tickets

The story speaks for itself — you can read all about it here. What is so interesting are the comments by local government. First the spokesperson for the agency that is supposed to collect the money:

“It is unrealistic to expect that the agency would collect on 100 percent of citations,” SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said.

Remember the number is over 600,000 uncollected citations over a five year period. Now the SFMTA says they collect 90% of the money due them and the inference is that the $38,000,000 uncollected is just a drop in the bucket.  Of course with elected officials like this one, who can expect more:

“Knowing MTA, I know that they are very efficient when it comes to parking tickets,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. “Sometimes too efficient, when it comes to some of my constituents. I think they’re doing a pretty good job, from what I can tell.”

Our government has lost all sight of reality. If a private firm with a turnover of over $70,000,000 a year had a receivables loss of 10%, there would be hell to pay. However with agency officials throwing around numbers like $38,000,000 and $360,000,000 and at the federal level 15 trillion, what’s a few million here or there.  “They are doing a pretty good job.” Really.

I wonder what would happen if the supervisor had said:  “$38,000,000, That’s not chump change. I want the director in here next week explaining why we can’t collect the money and why we shouldn’t have someone else running the place. If they lose $38,000,000 here, what else is going on down there. If we don’t get answers heads will roll.”

How’s that. I can write fiction, too.

JVH

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4 Responses to And You Wonder Why I named it the “Baghdad by the Bay” Award

  1. rufus says:

    Municipalities in California have the ability to add unpaid parking cite fees onto the vehicle’s annual registration renewal. Are they? Are they impounding after five cites have been issued?

    In all honesty, the City of San Francisco will soon have a 100% free curb parking because everyone will have a fraudulently obtained handicapped permit.

    • Andi says:

      I suggest that phraeps a comparison between government collection rates and private collection rates for parking tickets be looked at before bashing government collection rates. Having managed both systems, I can attest that it is difficult to collect outstanding parking tickets no matter who you are. Getting a collection company to really put effort into collecting a debt under $100 is like pulling teeth it doesn’t make business sense for them to pull out all the stops, so you get maybe a couple of letters, automated skip-tracing only and if you’re lucky, some auto-dialer calls providing the company can find a phone number which you probably don’t have and can’t provide when you turn the account over.Private companies operating on private property can’t put registration holds on vehicles and in some cases are prohibited from booting. My government collection rate was an order of magnitude higher than my private company collection rate. And I suspect universities have the highest collection rate in the industry because they control 100% of the on and off street parking on their campuses, plus can deduct fees, ban registration for school and withhold diplomas.Even with booting and registration holds, a collection rate of 90% is from my experience stellar performance. People often change cars like they change underwear so what good does a registration hold do if you’ve switched cars? And booting? Well, that means you have to find the vehicle while it is parked on the street or in a lot owned by the municipality. Sounds easy, but in reality is very difficult unless you have an army of people out on the streets with LPR technology. Say your municipality has 2,000 miles of road. How do you monitor all 2,000 miles 24/7? We won’t discuss out of state plates, temporary registrations, ownership transfers and the like.

  2. Brandy Stanley says:

    I suggest that perhaps a comparison between government collection rates and private collection rates for parking tickets be looked at before bashing government collection rates. Having managed both systems, I can attest that it is difficult to collect outstanding parking tickets no matter who you are. Getting a collection company to really put effort into collecting a debt under $100 is like pulling teeth – it doesn’t make business sense for them to pull out all the stops, so you get maybe a couple of letters, automated skip-tracing only and if you’re lucky, some auto-dialer calls – providing the company can find a phone number which you probably don’t have and can’t provide when you turn the account over.

    Private companies operating on private property can’t put registration holds on vehicles and in some cases are prohibited from booting. My government collection rate was an order of magnitude higher than my private company collection rate. And I suspect universities have the highest collection rate in the industry because they control 100% of the on and off street parking on their campuses, plus can deduct fees, ban registration for school and withhold diplomas.

    Even with booting and registration holds, a collection rate of 90% is from my experience stellar performance. People often change cars like they change underwear so what good does a registration hold do if you’ve switched cars? And booting? Well, that means you have to find the vehicle while it is parked on the street or in a lot owned by the municipality. Sounds easy, but in reality is very difficult unless you have an army of people out on the streets with LPR technology. Say your municipality has 2,000 miles of road. How do you monitor all 2,000 miles 24/7?

    We won’t discuss out of state plates, temporary registrations, ownership transfers and the like.

  3. Seamus Wilmot says:

    I agree with Brandy, it is impossible to have a 100% collection rate due to the numerous issues with changing vehicle registrations, abandoned vehicles, junked vehicles. Please review the collection rates of other organizations; it can be misleading to take a single data point and tout it as good or bad. If a majority of other comparable municipality collection rates are in the 95-100% (which I highly doubt), then I can see bashing SF for their rate, but my guess is other collection rates are somewhere in the 70-80% range.

    Maybe check with some of the vendors who claim they can increase your collections rate. I am sure they have done some analysis on the rates of municipalities. I think I remember one vendor claiming they increased a municipality’s rate from 67% to 73%, nothing near the 90% rate of SF. I think some of these vendors may even advertise in Parking Today.

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