- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

More than 1,000 people who drive in the District can park illegally without fear of paying a fine, because their jobs exempt them from receiving tickets.
All 535 members of Congress receive the standard exemption allowing them to park at expired meters, in residential zones without a permit, and at the end of streets where there are no "no parking" signs as long as the car they are driving has official license plates.
D.C. Council members and the mayor also get the parking perks, and advisory neighborhood commissioners are exempt from meter charges, said Mary Myers, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.
"The exemption is primarily to give city officials some flexibility to do the jobs they are elected and/or paid to do," Ms. Myers said.
"Being able to park in residential zones and meters allows them to attend meetings with residents at churches and schools and other places where parking may be hard to find," she said.
Less-high-profile positions come with parking privileges, too.
Nearly every city agency is assigned a small fleet of vehicles with city government plates. While on official business, city workers driving the cars are exempt from several D.C. parking laws.
The privileged include public works and consumer and regulatory affairs inspectors, tree cutters, social workers and even parking enforcement officers frequently out of the office in locations where on-street parking is scarce.
The exemptions come with some limits: A vehicle parked in loading zones, rush-hour routes during restricted hours 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. or in front of fire houses, fire hydrants and identified no-parking zones (excluding entrances) will be ticketed.
"The exemptions apply to the official plates on the vehicle and not the individual," said Regina Williams, spokeswoman for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Bureau of Traffic Adjudication, the DMV's sister agency, is the final authority on determining the validity of all ticket fines and exemptions. Miss Williams said that, regardless who is driving, a federal or D.C. government vehicle will not be ticketed.
Foreign diplomats and ambassadors frequently have special, on-street parking available to them and do not get exemptions.
Ms. Myers said no one has an exemption for a personal vehicle.
Parking perks for officials have been criticized recently. D.C. Council members recently voted to increase parking fines, after approving the parking exemptions for themselves in July. The higher parking fines are part of a revised budget to cut spending and boost revenue to offset a potential $323 million deficit.
For instance, fines for parking in an alley, disobeying an official sign, parking in a no-parking zone and parking for more than two hours in a residential parking area without a permit will be raised from $20 to $30. Expired-meter tickets will increase from $15 to $25.
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.


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