D.C. continues to streamline only thing it does efficiently— collect other people’s money

posted at 3:41 pm on February 5, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

The city does excel in one area of administration:

The city is writing tickets at a record rate, raking in nearly $90 million just last year.

The city wrote 1.8 million parking tickets in 2012, up 200,000 tickets from the year before. That’s nearly 6,000 parking tickets each day, or 400 tickets an hour and seven tickets each minute.

“We’re not only writing more tickets than the average city our size across the country, but we’re writing more tickets every year, every day, every month, every hour, every minute. The efficiency is increasing,” says John Townsend, AAA Mid Atlantic spokesperson.

Seven tickets a minute?!? Imagine the manpower involved in running this finely tuned confiscatory machine, designed to make life ever harder for the city’s citizens and visitors, not easier or smoother. Now, I wonder if each of the members of this parking enforcement army is getting a pension. The story’s the same in every city (and quite a few speed traps in rural areas across America). Bureaucrats are uncannily good at extracting money from citizens; not so much at streamlining and optimizing the things that money funds. None of it’s about safety— studies show wrecks increase in the presence of red-light cameras. It’s about revenue.

And, how are they using all that revenue? One logical place would be on the ever-present traffic problems in the area, but here’s the news Washington got this week:

When it comes to traffic congestion around Washington, even the good news is bad, and it goes downhill from there.

The city that so hungers to be No. 1 at something — usually on a gridiron or diamond-shaped field — has again risen to the top as the most congested metropolitan area in the United States, a place where the average driver burns 67 hours and 32 gallons of gas each year sitting in traffic.

The No. 1 ranking is the good news. The bad news is that it’s going to get worse.

The annual crunching of numbers by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute projects that unless something is done about traffic, the economic recovery will put more wheels on the road and create more congestion. By 2020, analysts say, the average U.S. driver will spend an additional seven hours in traffic each year and waste six more gallons of gas.

Now, I don’t expect anyone to weep too hard for ticket recipients of the Beltway. Consider the ticket costs and the traffic congestion a tax on becoming the Hunger Games Capital City at the expense of the rest of the country.

But this is a symbol for government’s stewardship and its consequences. Bloated state budgets and a federal government with too many responsibilities neglect their actual, constitutional duties, like infrastructure, while constantly begging for more money by saying they’ll use it for crumbling infrastructure.

Take Maryland, for instance. Governed by Democratic presidential aspirant Martin O’Malley, the state raided more than $1 billion from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund to pay for non-transportation projects. After appropriating those funds for the General Fund and refusing to put them back, O’Malley is of course asking for a hefty gas tax increase…for underfunded transportation priorities. Maryland is essentially a one-party state, but one Democrat, State Comptroller Peter Franchot has warned O’Malley’s gas tax hike will hurt the economy and won’t even be used to improve infrastructure.

“If we move forward in this direction with this gas tax increase, it’s going to be for general fund relief, not traffic congestion relief.”

Maryland Democrats will no doubt let this happen to them, and then allow O’Malley to claim a victory for responsible government. Don’t let it happen to you.


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