Parking tickets brought nearly $230,000 to Island towns in fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, according to data from the Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk’s office. In total 9,059 tickets were issued this summer, with August the busiest month and Oak Bluffs leading the way as the most ticketed town.

That number is a slight decrease compared with last summer, although there were a record number of cars arriving on the Island this summer. The drop can be traced back to a 13 per cent decline in Oak Bluffs, which still managed to give out almost as many tickets as the rest of the towns combined. Oak Bluffs issued 4,507 parking tickets this year compared with 5,185 last year.

“We had a tough season,” said Lieut. Timothy Williamson of the Oak Bluffs police department. Like other Island departments, Oak Bluffs hires special, neon-vested summer traffic officers to write tickets, and this summer a leader in their ranks was hit with mononucleosis.

“One girl who was great, her doctor said she couldn’t be out anymore,” Lieutenant Williamson said. “She was one of our stronger ones.”

Another special officer had to end his tenure early to go to National Guard training, leaving the town with just three parking and traffic officers for the month of August.

Lieutenant Williamson said it can be a hard job to recruit for.

“They get the brunt of people’s anger when they get caught putting a ticket on someone’s windshield,” he said of the traffic officers, many of whom hope to become full-time police officers one day. “It’s a tough job. They’re in the trenches.”

Oak Bluffs saw a 13 per cent decrease in parking tickets this summer. — Holly Pretsky

Parking fines are most severe in Chilmark at $30. In Aquinnah, Tisbury and Edgartown overtime offenders are fined $25, in Oak Bluffs $20, and in West Tisbury just $10. All towns charge $100 for parking in a handicapped space without a placard.

“Really the purpose of having a ticket is not to be revenue-enhancing. It’s to keep the traffic moving,” said superior court clerk Joe Sollitto.

“It’s so people can come into town, have a meal, go shopping and maybe more people will take public transportation.”

Since 1982, Mr. Sollitto has presided over parking ticket hearings almost every morning at the county courthouse, and he comes in on Saturdays to review written parking ticket challenges.

“Most people say they don’t see the signs. That happens with a lot of people on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Sollitto said, “I have a lot of people who tell me they’ve been coming here for the summer for the past 30 years. And I tell them, for the past 50 years there’s been one-hour parking on Circuit avenue.”

Mr. Sollitto would know. He was an Oak Bluffs police officer back then.

After tickets are written, carbon copies are delivered to Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk Donna Michalski, and eventually entered into a database linked to the commonwealth’s registry of motor vehicles. On busy days, Ms. Michalski and her summer assistant can enter up to 600 tickets into the system.

“Some day these things may be automated, but we’re not there yet,” Ms. Michalski said with a laugh.

She sends out quarterly notices with late fees to people who haven’t paid their tickets. If the ticket goes unpaid after a notice goes out, Massachusetts drivers get tagged in the database and they won’t be able to renew their vehicle registration until they pay their tickets.

For out-of-state offenders, there aren’t any long term consequences for not paying, at least not yet. Ms. Michalski said she is working on finding a collections company for offenders visiting from other states.

In his three and a half decades of parking ticket hearings, Mr. Sollitto said he has heard every excuse in the book. He cited a few examples such as people moving their cars after getting a ticket and snapping a picture of their correctly-parked vehicle as proof they were wrongly accused, parents coming in after getting a notice in the mail and finding out their teenager had stashed several parking tickets in the glove compartment, or people saying they had already spent a lot of money on the Island. “Especially the ones from Edgartown,” he said with a chuckle.

Back when tickets were $15 in Edgartown, one woman asked if she could just pay $7.50 since her car was only halfway parked in a no-parking zone.

Mr. Sollitto said usually only about three per cent of tickets get voided after a hearing, but he appreciates a good story.

“If somebody has a pretty good story, even though they may be in violation, you may take care of it just to say, hey, that’s one I haven’t heard before,” he said.

One man had his ticket voided when he told Mr. Sollitto he ate two hot dogs on the ferry and had no choice but to park illegally and run to a bathroom after docking. Another woman explained she was simply old.

“She said, I’m 89 years old. I’m an old lady. And I said, that is a good reason,” he recalled.

But he said when spaces are scarce, the majority of people deserved the unwelcome yellow rectangles on their windshields. He sometimes sits on an Edgartown bench in the summer to eat his lunch and watch the cars go around and around, searching in vain. “Sometimes I remind people that when you’re driving around and you see a free space, don’t park in it because if it was a legal space, somebody already would have been there before you.”