Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bike and Pedestrian fines - Unexpected Results

Obstacles (photo by thedceye)
As part of the fiscal year 2012 budget process, District of Columbia Council members, through their Committees, ask questions regarding a litany of topics so that they can make programmatic and fiscal decisions.  Recently, the Committee on Public Works and Transportation asked the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to provide answers to 21 questions related to its budget and operations.

Question 17 on the Committee's list asked the agency to provide information about the amount and type of revenue collected within the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Fund (DC ST § 1-325.131) from fiscal years 2009, 2010 and year-to-date figures for 2011.  Specifically, the Committee was likely seeking information about the implementation of DC Law 17-269, the "Pedestrian Safety Reinforcement Amendment Act of 2008".

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Fund is a nonlapsing revenue source (its year-end balance 'role over' to the subsequent fiscal year) totaling $1.5 million per fiscal year. Its funding is derived from fines generated from the enhanced neighborhood parking control initiative and fines collected as result of the Pedestrian Safety Act.  Its purpose is to enhance the safety and quality of pedestrian and bicycle transportation in the District, including traffic calming and Safe Routes to School enhancements.  While the legislation allows the District Department of Transportation to administer the transportation projects, it is DMV that collects the funds.

With regard to question 17, DMV identified the amount of revenue and the number of citations issued to bicyclists and pedestrians.  This appears to be a misinterpretation of the intent of the Pedestrian Safety Act, which, among other things, increased points and fines against motorist who failed to yield to pedestrians or parked in bicycle lanes.  That issue notwithstanding, below is an analysis of the infractions issued to and revenue collected from bicyclists and pedestrians as shown on attachment 11, as submitted by DMV to the Committee.  

For fiscal year 2009, the most common violation was T072, "disobey traffic device or officer while on a bike".  A total of 54 tickets were issued with a total of $1,205 in revenue collected -- an average amount per violation of $22.31.   

In fiscal year 2010, "disobey traffic device or officer while on a bike" was again the highest grossing violation with the largest number of infractions - 179 tickets issued, a 231.4 percent increase.  This violation collected $2,720, which represents a 125.7 percent increase over 2009.  While more tickets were issued in 2010, the average amount per violation decreased, $7.12 to $15.20. 

From October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011, violation T072 was once again the leader in citations and revenue - 18 tickets issued collecting $1,120.  So far, this represents an average violation amount totaling $62.22. 

For fiscal year 2009, the most common violation was T575, "fail to obey don't walk or wait traffic signal".  A total of 479 tickets were issued in that year collecting $8,240, which represents a per violation average of $17.20. 

For fiscal year 2010, violation T575 had the highest issuance, 320 violations, but this represented a decrease of 159 tickets issued from the prior, a decrease of 33.2 percent.  The total revenue from this infraction was $6,010, an average amount per violation of $18.78, which represents an increase of 9.2 percent over 2009. 

For the first 6 months of fiscal year 2011, "fail to obey don't walk or wait traffic signal" was not the violation with the highest number of tickets issued. Violation T528, "pedestrian walking so as to create a hazard", was issued 47 times - ten more than T575.  Nevertheless, T575 collected the most revenue so far, a total of $1,590.    

During the 2 1/2 year period, pedestrians have contributed a total of $22,845 in fines ($12,665 more than bikes) and were issued a total of 1,586 citations (1,033 more than bikes), a per citation average of $14.40.  However, the per citation average for bicyclists over the same period was $18.41, or 21.7 percent more than the average fine for pedestrians. 

Excluding fiscal year 2011, which could contain erroneous or misleading data, bicyclists paid an average of $17.60 per citation, or 22.1 percent more than pedestrians, who paid an average of $13.71 per citation.  During fiscal years 2009 and 2010, pedestrians paid $11,730 more in fines than bicyclists and were issued 989 more violations.  If bicyclists were issued the same number of citations (1,461) as pedestrians over that span, bicyclists would have paid $25,707, or $5,672 more than pedestrians, who paid $20,035. 

As for the intended enforcement objective of Pedestrian Safety Reinforcement Amendment Act of 2008, maybe Council better luck next time DCBAC will discuss this with the Committee to see what can be done to make changes regarding how the law is enforced.