Last Year, New Yorkers Paid a Record Amount in Traffic Fines

Orange parking ticket placed on windshield of car.
Parking tickets also up.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign has succeeded in reducing traffic fatalities by 22 percent — and, it turns out, it also pays pretty well. According to a new report from the comptroller’s office, the city collected a record $957 million in fines in 2015, up 7.5 percent from the year before, and by far the largest share of those penalties were traffic- and parking-related. 

Most of that rise is tied to the mayor’s clampdown on bad driving. The traffic-camera program accounted for $77 million in fines, a 41 percent increase since 2012 as the initiative has been expanded 15-fold. Over the next few years, that number is expected to continue to grow as the city installs 100 new speeding cameras and 100 new bus-lane cameras. Red-light-camera violations were up slightly last year, after two years of decline. And the largest category of fines — parking tickets — was up 10 percent in the last four years, although it’s still off its 2008 peak.

Quality-of-life penalties, issued for violations like littering and dirty sidewalks and bad recycling compliance, have also seen an uptick; revenue from fines issued by health inspectors to restaurants and small businesses was the only category that fell. Mayor Bloomberg imposed a big burden on those institutions when he started the letter-grade system, but since de Blasio took office and implemented his small-business relief package in 2014, the fines have steadily declined.

Also ballooning is the amount that New Yorkers pay in fees, which include CUNY tuition, parking-meter payments, and Fire Department inspections. They amounted to $957 million last year, an almost 15 percent increase over 2012, most of that coming from a 25 percent hike in CUNY tuition. 

2015 Was a Banner Year for Traffic Fines