Beyond the Obvious Into the Extraordinary

San Francisco Drivers Owe $200 Million In Unpaid Parking Fines

One driver owes $81,000 after being ticketed 365 times in five years, and only paying a single citation


by Chris Chilton

December 21, 2023 at 10:34

 San Francisco Drivers Owe $200 Million In Unpaid Parking Fines

We’ve all returned to our car at some point and felt that horrible feeling in our guts at the sight of a parking ticket tucked under the wiper arm. And though some people will choose not to pay, most of us do because we know the financial pain is only going to get bigger if we don’t.

Drivers in San Francisco though, really don’t seem to like paying their tickets. The city is owed $200 million in unpaid fines and penalties resulting from more than a million outstanding tickets, according to data unearthed by the local newspaper, The San Francisco Standard. It discovered that a whopping 16 percent of the more than 6 million tickets the city issued in the five and a half years from January 2018 remain unpaid. That’s one in every six.

During that period drivers were handed out tickets worth $601 million, to which was added $137 million in fines for drivers that didn’t pay promptly. The Standard calculates that the true amount owed the city must be far more than $200 million because the data doesn’t go back further than 2018.

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Related: Court Finds That San Francisco’s “Poverty Towing” Is Unconstitutional

 San Francisco Drivers Owe $200 Million In Unpaid Parking Fines
SFMTA’s website contains plenty of (clearly ignored) information about parking legally

But possibly even more alarming than the overall $200-million figure is the $81,000 owed by a single driver. The unnamed owner of a Lincoln with California plates was hit with 365 tickets between April 2018 and March 2023 but had managed to pay off just one of the fines during that time. Meanwhile, a Mercedes owner racked up $50,000 in fines in less than two years and has made no effort to pay anything.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) told the paper’s journalists that it had several schemes in place to recoup fines, including preventing drivers from renewing their registration and barring them from obtaining residential parking permits. Other cities also struggling to get drivers to cough up for parking and traffic violations include New York and Austin, The Standard reports.

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