- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Honk if you are haunted by the zone-ordered parking of the city — the convoluted system that keeps on filling the coffers of the Wilson Building.

You live in the Palisades but work on Capitol Hill — two zones that marginalize the urbanite as easily as someone commuting from the suburbs.

Here is the benefit of the zone sticker: Your vehicle is in compliance with the city’s parking laws, so long as it is never parked for an extended period anywhere but in the zone of your residence.

But if you plop your vehicle on a residential street outside your zone, you will accumulate parking tickets just as quickly as the suburbanites. The only difference is that the city will see to it that you pay the tickets. The city has no such latitude with those who live outside the city. There, the only way the city can obtain its payoff is to boot the offending car. As a series of recent articles in The Washington Times revealed, some of our neighbors in the suburbs are maneuvering about our roadways with considerable ticket debt.

The system is not really designed to be fair. It actually is designed to fleece as many motorists as possible and then tally up the “donations” as the process goes along.

So long as sufficient ticket funds are making their way to city coffers, the urge to reform the system is absent.

It makes no sense, just cents, that a person living in Chevy Chase, Md., has to be creative if visiting an acquaintance who lives in Chevy Chase, D.C.

A variation of this absurdity presents itself for those who come to the city to visit relatives. A parking pass — available at neighborhood police stations — is required if the out-of-town relative is to avoid being in violation of our draconian parking laws.

Here is poor Aunt Maude coming to the big city for the week, and her first brush with our city is a parking ticket in all too many instances. It does not seem overly hospitable of a city that prides itself on being a leading tourist destination. But that is how the parking-enforcement game is played. If you are Aunt Maude, your niece or nephew better well know about the oh-so-precious parking pass. If not, Aunt Maude is going to incur a tidy expense.

And that is the racket within the racket of the parking-enforcement game. It requires the citizenry to be up-to-date on all the parking minutia of the city, as if the average person has nothing better to do than study all the various rules and regulations of what is mostly a banal pursuit: parking a vehicle.

Here, living in the beast of the bureaucracy, committees are formed and studies are commissioned and, eventually, more obscure parking laws are passed, ostensibly to repair the unintended consequences of previous measures.

Sometimes what you end up with, almost comically, is a succession of parking signs that baffle a motorist who is trying to determine whether a space is legal or merely a bureaucratic trap intended to snare the unsuspecting.

There are parking spaces around the city that seemingly are available only one or two hours a day, and that is only if the motorist knows the secret password.

Inevitably, a few motorists say a bad word or two, or worse, take a blunt instrument to a meter and level with it one blow. That no doubt reflects the attitude of a few of the suburbanites who have taken to ignoring their tickets, to the point that the repeated fines and penalties possibly add up to more than the value of their vehicles.

Parking enforcement generates vast sums of money for the city, but otherwise it is an inequitable mess.

Our city leaders purport to serve the public, but all they really do is nitpick a public that has come to be inured to it.

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