Parking ticket frustration: Where the most drivers are getting cited

It's something we never want to see: a parking ticket sitting on our windshield. With local cities making big money off of drivers - KIRO 7 wanted to know where you're most likely to get ticketed in Tacoma, Everett and Seattle.

We dug through tens of thousands of citations to find the top spots...and sent our crews to find out why.
Officer Michael Elmer walks miles around downtown Tacoma daily checking cars. He's been doing this for 24 years.

"My goal every day when I go out is to write zero tickets, it's never happened." Instead, Elmer writes about 30 tickets and warnings a day.

From June through December, Tacoma officers wrote 19,792 parking tickets

  • 936 in the 1700 block of Pacific Avenue
  • 745 in the 900 block of Tacoma Avenue South -- near the courthouse.
  • 500 on Pacific Avenue near UW's campus
  • 431 near restaurants in the 700 block of Commerce Street.

"There's certainly frustration on some people, especially if they don't read the signs and don't 
know why they're getting a ticket."

In Everett, parking near the courthouse comes with a high risk for a ticket. Attorney Bill Sullivan has experienced it firsthand. "There's been a huge amount of growth and unfortunately the amount of parking hasn't grown along with it."

During the six-month period we studied last year, nearly 11,000 parking tickets were issued citywide.

  • More than 200 tickets in the 2900 block of Oakes and the 2900 block of Rucker
  • In the 2700 block of Colby, officers wrote more than 300 tickets. Same for two blocks over in the 2900 block.
  • The number one spot: 2900 block of Rockefeller, with nearly 500 tickets.

What used to be a process of chalking tires and taking down license plate numbers is now much simpler and faster with new mobile technology.

Officer Donny Shove showed us how it works: "There's now a license plate reader in our handheld devices. We can just walk down the street now. It takes a picture of the plate and vehicle and logs that for us. We can just walk down the street with the handheld device and instead of entering the information on the vehicle we can just scan the plate and it enters for us."

In less than five minutes, Shove collected several blocks worth of data. “The device also has a countdown so if it's a 90-minute zone it will count down the 90 minutes so we can look at the device and say it's time to go check the cars again."

Parking enforcement has become such a massive undertaking, Officer Shove now works for a department of four and they are in the process of hiring a fifth.

In Seattle, police issued around 86,000 parking tickets in the last six months of 2018 for the most common offenses. One of the top spots is just off Ballard's Market Street next to Swedish Hospital. It's the 53-hundred block of Tallman -- the third-highest spot for tickets. 
Drivers got 127 tickets here.

Number two was a little corner parking lot in the 1000 block of Northeast Boat Street, with 141 parking tickets.

We joined parking enforcement officer Vincent Babcock... asking questions to help you avoid a ticket:
"One of the most common mistakes I'm seeing now with the pay by phone is they've got multiple vehicles that they've already got loaded onto the app and they picked the wrong vehicle for which they're parking. Another one is they switched some of the letters or numbers on the license plate, don't get it exactly accurate."

We asked Babcock about the number one spot for tickets: 2101 North Northlake Way, the parking lot of Gas Works Park. Drivers got 160 parking tickets here.

“If the weather's really nice, you get a lot of folks that are parking there that are either using the park or use the Burke Gilman trail. We want to free up, create that turnover in that area so everybody can come in and enjoy that park.”

A reminder that as the weather warms up, watch where you park to avoid finding a ticket on your windshield.

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