Baltimore issued more than $16 million in parking tickets last year

Baltimore issued more than $16 million in parking tickets last year, according to a new study.

Baltimore issued nearly 340,000 parking tickets totaling more than $16 million in fines in 2016, according to a study released this month by the Law Offices of Randolph Rice.

Parking meter violations were the most common, making up $3 million of the fines, followed by street-cleaning violations ($2.4 million), tow-away zones ($1.9 million) and residential-permit-only areas ($1.3 million), the study said.

But Baltimoreans and city visitors pay less in parking tickets than their counterparts in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. While those cities have far larger populations, they also paid more in fines per capita. Baltimoreans paid an average of $25.79 per person, while San Franciscans paid $98.84, New Yorkers paid $67.21 and Angelenos paid $38.07, the study said.

"It doesn't seem to be the case, compared to other cities, that Baltimore is trying to fleece its residents and tourists," Rice said Tuesday.

Rice said his firm studied the publicly available data to find out where cars were most often being ticketed. His personal injury and criminal defense firm doesn't handle many parking violations, which often can't be lowered much by going to court.

"Most people just pay them," Rice said.

Tickets were most frequent on Cross Street, adjacent to the market at the center of Federal Hill's popular bar and restaurant scene. The study said 3,400 tickets costing more than $112,000 were issued there. Parking violations in the first blocks of Calvert Street, near the downtown courthouses; Paca Street, near the University of Maryland Medical Center; and Gay Street, adjacent to the Baltimore Police Central District station, racked up the next highest fine totals.

The study encouraged people to pay close attention to the times on signs and meters, which vary depending on the area and day of the week.

Ticketing was highest on Wednesdays — perhaps due to street cleanings, Rice said — and the most tickets were issued at 11 a.m. of any time of day, the study said. The fewest were doled out at 5 a.m., with a large spike at 8 a.m., when meter enforecement officers begin their rounds. Sundays, when some meters don't operate, had the fewest tickets of any day of the week, the study said.

The Baltimore Department of Transportation launched a new site, "Find My Tow," on Monday that allows drivers to locate their impounded vehicles. A vehicle owner can plug in his or her license plate number and find out whether the car has been towed, and if so, where it is, and how much is owed in fees.

The city uses two impound lots for vehicles that are abandoned, illegally parked or involved in crashes: the Pulaski Highway Impound and Storage Facility, at 6700 Pulaski Highway, and a secondary lot at 410 Fallsway.

"Keep in mind," Rice's study noted, "that these numbers are only initial fines and do not include figures for towing and penalties for failure to pay fines."

Those penalties can add up, Rice said. One client had a collections agency send him a $900 bill for a long-unpaid parking ticket, with a threat that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration could suspend his license, the attorney said.

"Twenty-five dollars can balloon," Rice said.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

@cmcampbell6

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