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

Orange parking ticket placed on windshield of car.
Parking tickets also up. Photo: Nick Koudis

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