In a 19-month period, more than 2,500 tickets were written to cars parked on one block of Bagley Avenue North in Wallingford.

Share story

For a time, Dana Rasmussen tried to do the neighborly thing. When he saw an unfamiliar car parking on his block in the evening, he would warn the driver: It’s residential-zoned parking, and they do ticket. But he found that most folks weren’t terribly grateful for the tip.

“They’d get pretty hostile a lot of times, so I stopped saying anything,” he explained. “If people want to get a ticket, I guess that’s their business.”

They really should have listened.

The unassuming, Craftsman-lined stretch in Wallingford may look like your typical North Seattle street. But make no mistake. The 4500 block of Bagley Avenue North is a parking-ticket cash cow for the city.

Analysis of Seattle Municipal Court records shows that from January 2014 to July of this year, more than 2,500 tickets were written to cars parked there — $133,714 in fines.

It also ranks Bagley among Seattle’s most-ticketed single blocks, but it’s nothing like the rest of the top five. They’re more along the lines of what you’d expect — major commercial streets with meters in effect on both sides. These parking-ticket hot spots are located in the busy Pike-Pine area of Capitol Hill and on the Ave in the University District. Most tickets on those are written for expired meters, but there are plenty of other violations, such as illegally parking in a commercial loading zone or improperly angled parking. And with so much in-and-out traffic on these streets, parking-enforcement cops also come across a good amount of expired license plates.

But nearly all the tickets written on Bagley Avenue are for violation of the residential parking zone, which bans vehicles without permits between 5 p.m. and midnight. Only the west side of the street is zoned — enough space for perhaps a dozen cars.

However, in this regard, Bagley doesn’t seem much different from nearby streets like Corliss Avenue, one block to the east. The same zoning rules are in effect there, too. But for every parking ticket on Corliss, Bagley has 10.

So what gives?

The visibility of the sign­age probably plays a role. On Corliss, the signs are free-standing. On Bagley, they are affixed to utility poles, and not very well-lit in the evening. The signs face south, and nearly all the cars park facing north. It’s not really surprising that people park here and never notice.

Location also plays a role. The 4500 block of Bagley is directly off the most hopping part of 45th Street, Wallingford’s main drag. The Guild Theatre and some of the neighborhood’s most popular restaurants and bars are right around the corner. Bagley would seem like the perfect place to park for an evening out in Wallingford — and it’s in the evening when the zone parking rules go into effect.

These factors don’t necessarily explain why Bagley is ticketed so much more than neighboring blocks. It could also be that a smart parking-enforcement officer figured out that a nightly visit to Bagley would prove reliably productive.

Most drivers do learn their lesson the first time, though. Of the 2,537 tickets issued on this part of Bagley, only 104 were to cars that had already been cited here in this period.

However, there’s at least one person in Seattle who really never learns. In the 19-month period, one silver Jeep has been ticketed 152 times — mostly around Belltown — to the tune of $6,805. (There were two vehicles with more, but they were commercial trucks.)

Overall, tickets written by Seattle’s 103 parking-enforcement officers in this period totaled more than $33 million in fines. That pencils out to roughly $325,000 per officer.

With the salary for a Seattle parking-enforcement officer averaging $61,089, I’d say these folks earn their keep.