- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Opponents of a bill that would increase the annual cost of D.C. residential parking permits say the legislation is just a new way for city officials to wring more money from car owners.

“I don’t think people are happy with additional fees,” said council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat. “It’s just another few bucks that they can give to the District of Columbia, and that’s never ever well-received.”

The legislation, proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, would cap the number of residential parking permits per household at three. It also would increase permit fees and charge households $25 for one car, $50 for a second and $100 for a third. The annual permits, which are available in unlimited amounts, currently cost $15 each. The fees have been raised $5 since 1991.

The proposed changes will be discussed at 2 p.m. today in the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, chaired by council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Mrs. Schwartz said she will not decide on the legislation until she has heard the arguments at today’s public meeting.

“I will certainly be looking at the issue with all the input in mind,” Mrs. Schwartz said. “Now there are some issues that I don’t sit and see what the polls have to say and what the calls have to say because they are issues that I feel strong about. But this is one of the issues that I think I will take into account a great deal people’s discussion of.”

In July 2002, the D.C. Council voted to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations when on official business, generously defined. That legislation was sponsored by Mrs. Schwartz.

Officials with the mayor’s office said raising the fees is a necessary evil.

“Since the fees haven’t been raised in so many years, it’s hard to argue,” said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for the mayor. “No one likes having fees raised, but it’s something you’ve got to do.”

The District collected about $1.8 million in permit fees in 2005 from the 118,165 permits currently issued, officials with the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles said.

According to the 2000 census, there are about 248,000 households in the District. The amount of revenue would rise under the proposed legislation, transportation officials said, but it is not clear by how much.

“They ought to just say what it is — it’s a fundraiser,” said Lon Anderson, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “They’ve gotten very good at fundraising on the backs of motorists. Now it’s more fees on parking.”

Officials with the District Department of Transportation said the legislation is aimed at discouraging on-street parking while persuading residents to use alternate forms of transportation, such as Metro or “car-sharing” rental companies.

Transportation officials have said there are more than 175,000 more cars in the District than there are parking spaces.

Officials with AAA Mid-Atlantic said the proposed legislation punishes residents who must have cars to conduct business.

“I think they are going to wake up and realize that there are a lot of people out there who have those two or three cars because they need them to do business in Washington,” he said. “It’s nice to have Metro and buses and things, but the fact is that we are not New York City, and, unfortunately, to accomplish a lot of things in the Washington metro area, it does take cars.”

On Capitol Hill, where many households own more than three cars, the legislation is needed, said Cody Rice, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Council 6A.

“I think they make a lot of sense, and they recognize the scarcity of parking,” Mr. Rice said. “They make a lot more sense than the current all-you-can-eat plan, where basically you can get as many parking permits as you want. I support it, I think it makes a lot of sense, and I don’t really see a problem with limiting it to three per household. Hopefully they’ll do it. It’s a step in the right direction.”

Today’s hearing will be held at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

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