Picture this: you’re driving in New York City and through a miracle you find yourself a cozy parking space that happens to be right in front of a building under construction -- scaffolding, general ugliness, the works. You look around the curb, the mangled facade of the building, and decide the coast is clear; no signs, you’re free to park. But you come back hours later to find a ticket! You step back, look around and, naturally, you find a sign clear out of your vision high up above the scaffolding because, hey, it’s the city and that’s what it does sometimes.
Well, if a new bill proposed by City Council Member Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) passes, you will be able to pay that ticket or any parking fine or court fee using bitcoin, the increasingly popular but infamously volatile digital currency. New York City would be the first city to adopt the use of bitcoin as a means of payment for fines.
"Today you can buy almost anything with bitcoin," Levine said in a statement. "For young, Internet-savvy people, it’s become the currency of choice. This would convey to the world that New York is on the cutting edge."
Today I introduced Int 661, which would allow NYers to pay fees and fines with Bitcoin and would make #NYC the first municipality to do so.
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) February 12, 2015
New York began searching for ways to make parking tickets payments easier late last year. It's not chump change -- the city's finance department collected about $513 million from parking violations in 2013. The use of smartphone apps like Apple Pay, PayPal and bitcoin were considered. Pittsburgh also pondered the potential of bitcoin payments in 2014, but decided against it due to the cryptocurrency’s unstable nature. A $100 sum in bitcoins can change value dramatically depending on the day. Pittsburgh opted for safer forms of payment like credit and debit instead.
New York’s proposal will try to circumvent bitcoin’s volatility by having people pay their bitcoin to financial agencies that accept the currency. These agencies would then pay the dollar amount of the fines to the city. This way, New York is protected from losing money if bitcoin values change during a transaction.
Levine hopes the proposal will pass and get up and running in six months. That sounds like a nice and speedy turnaround, but bitcoin fans may not like the fact that the bill allows the intermediary financial agencies to charge processing fees.