Boston Considers Income-Adjusted Parking Tickets

The Boston City Council is considering a new system for parking tickets that would set the amount paid by violators that depended on their income. The proposal newly elected city councilor at-large Julia Mejia would implement the system of income-adjusted fines — a system that could trigger some novel legal and political questions.

Mejia has declared that she is “introducing legislation on income-adjusting parking tickets so low-income families don’t have to decide between paying a parking ticket or putting food on their table.”

However, it also means that the wealthier citizens will be charged more for the same offenses. The implications of such a system is fascinating for those of us who have complained (as recently as this week) of cities using parking and traffic tickets as a form of revenue. This proposal would seem to reinforce the concept of tickets as a revenue-generating source. The alternative model is the tradition one. Historically, the amount of tickets was not defended as a revenue source but a reflection of the costs of such violations for the cities. Under that approach, citizens are paid the amount that the city deems as reflective of the misconduct and its costs.

If we treat these tickets as a revenue source (adjusted like taxes for wealth levels), the question is what other areas should also be adjusted. How about environmental fines or housing fines or misdemeanor fines? Tickets are imposed for conduct that could have been avoided in compliance with the law. There are a host of similar fines for such violations.

The legal dimension is rather fluid and uncertain. Charging wealthier citizens for the same acts can raise equal protection and other concerns. However, wealth is not a suspect classification. Thus, the courts would likely review such a proposal under a rational basis test, which is easily satisfied. Yet, this is a highly novel proposal that could lead to equally novel case law. There is an alternative approach to an income-adjusted fine system, which raises troubling issues. Instead, if Boston wants to protect low-income families, it could leave the fines as uniform and have a special program for deferred payments or even public support for low-income citizens. That would leave the tickets as “priced” at the cost of the offense or violation while allowing for public support of families. That system would also more clearly and directly show the costs of such a system.

One other concern with this approach is that it will only accelerate the trend toward using tickets for revenue. Once uncoupled from the expectation of uniformity or the inherent costs of violations, Boston would be free to redefine tickets as a taxing mechanism. Such predatory measures are already out of hand in our cities like Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The Mejia proposal would reduce the political costs of such alternative tax techniques.

For those reasons, I have serious reservations about the Mejia proposal from both legal and economic perspectives.

31 thoughts on “Boston Considers Income-Adjusted Parking Tickets”

  1. Income-adjusted parking tickets are unequal protection of the laws and its corollary, unequal application of the laws.

    All persons enjoy “…the equal protection of the laws…,” protection being “preservation from injury or harm” per Merriam Webster.

    The City of Boston must enforce parking laws equally and provide all citizens equal protection or “preservation from injury or harm, in this case, the “injury or harm” resulting from the onerous penalties imposed for illegal parking.
    _______________________________________________________________________

    “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;…nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    14th Amendment

    Section 1

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

  2. How would they know your income. Isn’t your income tax information protected under Federal law? Would they have to subpoena the IRS for the documents and then have a federal court hearing to see if their intrusion into your private papers were justified?

  3. Slimey way to get around the ban on poll taxes. Which brings us to the ERA resubmission and maybe the far left will support it this time along wit civil rights.

    My standards involve a simple change ini the Title.

    “Equal Rights and Responsibilities”

    Such as this idea of Boston, most of the ideas of California and the free ride for second class citizens under the draft laws. That would be quit penalizing the cannon fodder men and include the historical categorizing women as baby factories

    . Which where all bad ideas eventually end up as a form of mobocracy. Save it for a democracy has no place in a Constitutional Republic

  4. Reminds of this quotation from the Great Gatsby “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . .”.

    While parking tickets are trivial infractions that must actually correspond to society’s legitimate interest regulating the placement of automobiles when not in use and must not simply be a means of government harassment, there is still a moral issue here. It’s not just about raising revenue, or an either/or between raising revenue and covering the cost of the offense, but accountability.

  5. Easier solution: Stop parking your vehicle in a place where you will get a ticket for any reason. Your welcome and didn’t cost a dime more.

  6. Money isn’t a useful currency in this case (and invites corruption) and lots of people still park annoyingly, even if the fine is expensive for them. Rogue parkers know they are an inconvenience at best and at times a menace to road safety, but they do it because they think they’ll get away with it. So, it’s quite a bad attitude to have and almost never an accidental event.

    To be egalitarian (and far more efficient), put points on their licence and have them attend a boring course on ‘Parking 101’ on pain of licence/car(s) removal, every time after first offense, and mandatory licence removal after 3 courses have not solved the problem.

    Parking correctly will soon become the norm.

  7. Agree with somsai; all fines should be adjusted for income. The idea that doing so “would seem to reinforce the concept of tickets as a revenue-generating source,” just because the federal income tax is so graduated is limited thinking typical of a grade school student.

    A fine of $100 is punitive to someone making $7/hr, but is not even a flyspeck to a tenured law professor making $100,000+ per month. A graduated fine to assure that it is equally punitive to all is an excellent idea.

    1. The problem is it then becomes a game of big game hunting. The proportionate fine may seem to make sense from the ‘punishing the offender’ side, but from the ‘rewarding the punisher’ side there are clearly benefits.
      Why enforce traffic laws in poor communities?
      Dedicate a team to follow the richest in your community and you can fund your department.
      Can nobody see the potential for abuse?

  8. Notice that these harebrained ideas seem confined to cities that have long been controlled and governed by Democrats.

  9. “Under that approach, citizens are paid the amount that the city deems as reflective of the misconduct and its costs.”‘

    Now, there’s a progressive idea!

  10. Maybe a non monetary fine would be more equitable, like 2 hours in the stocks or half a day in a general holding cell etc. I think Jeff Bezos would feel the hurt from being in a general population holding cell a lot worse than a mere million dollars.

  11. I like this! I hope it passes and I hope they start zonking middle class white folks! The dumba$$es in Massachusetts gave us Ted Kennedy and other liberal Democrat senators and representatives, including that homo freak, Barney Fran, so this is kinda like Karma! Let the Democrats in Massachusetts start putting their own money where there mouths have been. I also hope Boston follows New Yorks lead and starts having no bail needed for criminals.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  12. If we all pay the same price at the parking meter, then the fines should be the same. If they are going to have a graduated payment scale for fines, then there should be a graduated payment scale for parking meters.

  13. All fines should reflect income with millionaires and even billionaires paying huge fines similar to the way $100 impacts a working stiff. A $500 speeding ticket could easily turn into $500,000. States and municipalities would have more revenue and the wealthy would watch out. Imagine if the SEC could fine big corporations (and corporations are people remember) the same sorts of fines that might be paid by an individual? Time to shake it up, it’s that or pitchforks.

  14. Sweden charges for moving violations depending on the driver’s salary. I read somewhere that a man who made a ton of money paid over $50k for reckless driving ticket.

  15. Space is a commodity. Space in certain loci is scarce enough to charge for it. That’s why you have meters, garages, and fines. Unless they’re blocking emergency vehicles and / or street sweepers, there’s no good reason to hit them with an exorbitant charge. However, one price for everyone.

    As a rule, fines should be deposited in a holding fund. At the end of the year, such a fund should be emptied by distributing its contents evenly among the body of property taxpayers.

    https://www.juliaforboston.com/about-julia

    “Justice” and “equity” for this woman means people on her client list aren’t held accountable by The Man.

    1. DSS, I don’t like using policing agencies mixed with revenue creation for governments so your idea of distributing such fines to the taxpayer strikes me as a good idea. An additional way to make everything equal. Boot the cars. Time will then be the cost plus whatever the fines might be..

    2. As a rule, fines should be deposited in a holding fund.

      Kind of like a lock box. 😉

      At the end of the year, such a fund should be emptied by distributing its contents evenly among the body of property taxpayers.

      Kind of like Social Security. Wouldn’t it be more equitable to distribute the funds to the taxpayers as proportionally as they were acquired?

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