- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

A crackdown on handicapped parking and the September 11 terrorist attacks are helping the District's newly hired parking-enforcement officers increase city revenue.

The D.C. Council has limited downtown parking for vehicles with handicapped placards or tags to create more parking spaces for businesses. That has resulted in a 16.4 percent increase in fines with the new parking monitors on the streets, said Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works.

Also, after the attacks, the federal General Services Administration banned private vehicles from parking in garages where government vehicles are kept. Civilians have been forced to find spaces on the streets or in nongovernment garages.

Meanwhile, the city's corps of parking-enforcement officers has more than doubled, from 75 last year to 165. The officers have been writing more tickets and generating more revenue for the District.

From October through last month, handicapped-parking fines totaled $8,864,622, compared with $7,410,487 for the same eight-month period the previous year.

"Parking monitors are now enforcing the new [handicapped-parking] law, but parking is still a problem," said Seamus Houston of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District.

Under previous law, 40 percent of downtown parking spaces were reserved for the handicapped Monday through Friday, Mr. Houston said. On weekends, handicapped vehicles occupied about 4 percent of parking, the same as the Monday-through-Friday average across the nation, he said.

Handicapped people once could park all day for free. Today, vehicles with D.C. handicapped placards can be parked free up to twice the length of the posted parking limit.

The handicapped-parking law, which took effect in August, mostly affects Maryland and Virginia drivers. It is estimated that there are 800,000 vehicles vying for 250,000 curbside spots around the city. Suburban commuters must take documentation about their handicaps to the District's Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain placards for free parking.

A survey by Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the city's digital parking meters, determined that 29 percent of handicapped parkers were fraudulent, Ms. Myers said.

The District's standards for handicapped parking are stricter than those of the states. For instance, people in the District with lung problems must submit to blood tests. In the states, they simply breathe into an oxygen-measuring tube, said Adam Maier, clerk of the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment.

City officials this year expect to surpass the more than $51.2 million collected last year from parking-meter fees, tickets and fines. The city has collected about $11.5 million a year in parking-meter revenue since 1998, when digital meters were installed.

By the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, public works officials expect to have 240 officers reading the city's 15,270 parking meters and patrolling the 3,500 blocks of unmetered but restricted parking spaces.

Each parking monitor writes about 19,000 tickets a year, totaling about 1.5 million annually. The city's planned 240 monitors could generate more than 4.5 million tickets a year.

Meter-violation fines are $20. Parking in restricted residential areas for more than two hours results in fines of $20 or $25.

The council approved the hiring of more parking-meter monitors after considering the meter-to-monitor ratios of other cities. The District had 203 meters per monitor last year, while San Francisco had 79 meters per monitor, Philadelphia 78 per monitor and New York 60 per monitor. When it employs 240 monitors, the District's ratio will be about 63 meters per monitor.

The parking monitors, who must have driver's licenses and clean police records, are paid between $21,000 and $27,000 annually.

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