Despite differences, parking fines add up for Island towns

Parking is scarce on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
File photo by Ralph Stewart

Parking is scarce on Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

Parking fines on Martha’s Vineyard share a similarity with real estate: it’s all about location. Although the Island towns enforce the same 14 violation categories, the fines on some of them vary widely. Despite the differences, revenue from parking violators adds up. For fiscal year 2013 (FY13), the six towns and Dukes County collected net parking ticket revenues of $350,747, according to a report provided by Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk Carol Grant.

Town parking tickets are managed by Dukes County, through Ms. Grant’s office. Last week she emailed information about each town’s parking fines and FY13 revenues in response to a request from The Times. Dukes County also issues parking tickets for violations around county-owned buildings and public beaches it oversees.

Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan brought up the subject of parking fine discrepancies among the Island towns at the Tisbury selectmen’s meeting on February 25. He suggested it is time for Tisbury to increase its overtime parking fine from $15 to $25, more in keeping with what the other down-Island towns collect. Edgartown charges $25 and Oak Bluffs $20 for the same offense.

“I think $15 is a little low; it doesn’t discourage people from leaving their cars parked in the same spot in town all day long,” Chief Hanavan told the selectmen. They agreed with his recommendation and scheduled a public hearing on March 25 to take action on the proposed increase.

Watch where you park

As the reports from Ms. Grant show, the up-Island towns also impose different overtime parking fines. Motorists who run late fare best in West Tisbury, where the fine is $10, as opposed to paying $25 in Aquinnah or $30 in Chilmark.

The towns’ parking fines also vary for several other offenses. A ticket for all night parking packs the biggest punch in Aquinnah, at $50, and the least in West Tisbury, $15. The fine in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury is $25, and in Chilmark, Edgartown, and Dukes County, $30.

Aquinnah and West Tisbury go the lightest on motorists who don’t park as expertly as they should, with a fine of $10 for parking more than a foot from the curb, in the wrong direction, or at an improper angle. The fine is $15 in Tisbury, $20 in Oak Bluffs, $25 in Edgartown and Dukes County, and $30 in Chilmark for the same offenses.

Fines for parking within 10 feet of a hydrant range from $50 in Aquinnah, $30 in Chilmark, Edgartown, and Dukes County, $25 in Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, and $15 in West Tisbury.

The towns all collect the same fine, $50, for illegal parking on the beach. They also are united in imposing a $100 fine for parking in a designated handicapped parking space without a permit. State law requires that the fine is not less than $100 nor more than $300.

If Islanders wonder how their parking fines compare, the town of Barnstable and city of Boston fine motorists $25 and Nantucket $50 for overtime parking, according to their websites. Parking too close to a fire hydrant results in a $100 to $300 fine on Nantucket, depending on the number of violations received, $100 in Boston, and $50 in Barnstable.

The price of bad parking

Although Tisbury’s overtime parking fine is on the low side, it topped the list among Island towns with $145,616 in net revenue collected in fines in FY13. Oak Bluffs came in second with $122,766, followed by Edgartown, $61,080; Aquinnah, $10,840; Chilmark, $7,200; and West Tisbury, $3,005. Dukes County collected $270. Late fees charged for the towns and county added up to $83,119.

The revenue collected varies from the actual amount of fines due for the number of tickets that were written, Ms. Grant explained in a phone conversation with The Times. The three down-Island towns issued the most tickets in FY13, with 5,328 in Tisbury, 4,182 in Oak Bluffs, and 1,834 in Edgartown. Aquinnah lead the up-Island towns with 215 tickets, followed by Chilmark, 208, and West Tisbury, 49. Dukes County issued seven.

The towns paid $1.50 per ticket, plus $52,612, which is 15 percent of the parking fines collected in FY13, to Dukes County as a processing fee.

The county charges 50 cents to send an overdue notice for late ticket payments. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is automatically notified through NetTech. The RMV can deny renewal of drivers’ licenses or vehicle registrations until fines are paid.

The county collects unpaid fines, and also provides the towns with a list of all drivers with five or more unpaid tickets as requested, Ms. Grant said.

NetTech Solutions, a New Jersey company, provides the parking management software and hardware used by Dukes County. Ms. Grant said the county adopted an online payment system about two years ago.

Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk information