PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Bureau of Transportation wrote roughly half as many parking tickets in 2022 as it did in years prior to the pandemic and there are no plans to restore the city’s parking ticket numbers to pre-pandemic levels, officials say.

While the annual number of parking tickets written by PBOT has increased by roughly 48% since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, court records obtained by KOIN 6 News show that the number of municipal parking tickets written in Multnomah County in 2022 was 102,308 — less than half the 221,519 parking tickets written in 2018. 

The annual number of parking tickets filed with the Multnomah Circuit Court between 2017 and 2022. (KOIN 6)

Numerous government agencies contribute to the annual number of parking tickets filed with the Multnomah Circuit Court. However court spokesperson Rachel McCarthy said that PBOT’s parking enforcement division accounts for a “vast majority” of these citations. PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera told KOIN 6 News that the decline in parking tickets is caused by a decline in revenue generated by parking meter payments and Oregon’s gas tax, which has led to budget cuts and fewer parking enforcement employees.

“Our parking enforcement operations have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels for a variety of reasons,” Rivera said. “We have fewer staff because of budget cuts related to gas tax and parking meter revenues not recovering from the pandemic.”

People living inside cars and an increase in the number of abandoned vehicles on the roadway has also shifted the city’s focus away from parking tickets, Rivera said.

“Some of the parking enforcement staff we do have are working on outreach to folks who are living in vehicles that are parked on the public right of way,” he said. “Abandoned automobiles have been a growing issue in recent years that has also required more time of our staff, taking them away from routine parking enforcement.”

Although parking tickets help pay for parking enforcement costs, Rivera said that the City of Portland does not consider these tickets as a source of revenue because the funds are shared with the state and often don’t cover the costs of the labor and equipment needed to write the tickets. Money collected from properly paid meter parking, meanwhile, is considered to be a relied-upon source of revenue for the city. But with parking meter revenue down since the pandemic, PBOT has resorted to using its reserves to maintain current staffing levels.

“Parking citations are a money loser for the city,” Rivera said. “It’s a public service. Parking meter revenue does generate funding the city relies on to be able to maintain streets and build safety improvements that can save lives. It has not recovered from the pandemic, and we have used reserves to stay in operation and avoid layoffs.”

Based on the city’s latest proposals for the 2023-2024 budget, Rivera said that the city is currently not planning to hire any new parking enforcement officers. When asked if the city’s reduced parking enforcement efforts could lead to more people skipping out on parking meter fees, exacerbating PBOT’s revenue problems, Rivera said that the agency’s reduced parking enforcement issues could contribute to a decline in parking meter payments.

“If we could get compliance without writing parking citations, we would,” he said. “Reduced demand for parking is an overwhelming factor driving transportation revenue down, just as reduced demand for commuting by driving is leading gas tax revenue down. It stands to reason that reduced parking enforcement would lead to reduced compliance with various parking rules like time limits, loading zone rules, vehicle registration requirements and blocking driveway access. And reduced compliance with all parking rules could contribute to less compliance with the rules for paying parking meters.”

Rivera said that some of the most common parking tickets written in Portland include: Failure to pay for parking, either through at a meter or the Parking Kitty App ($65), expired registration tags ($145), expired meter time ($44), and parking in “no parking any time” spaces ($85). Portland’s varying public parking costs are available on the city’s website.