- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

Tour bus drivers in the District, left with no place to park, are being forced to drive around in circles downtown to avoid costly tickets from parking enforcement crews.More tour drivers are steering their buses through downtown to avoid stiff fines for illegal parking, and some of the drivers said that could explain two pedestrian deaths in recent days. “The city wants the [tour] business, but they don’t have any place for us to park,” said Fred Moffett, 37, of Bowling Green, Va., who has been driving Quicks Tour buses for six years. Mr. Moffett said he has paid $500 out of his pocket for a D.C. parking citation.”We are constantly engaging the hospitality industry and making sure we are doing what’s in our mutual interests,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said at his weekly press briefing yesterday. “We’re always trying to balance being stricter on them [for illegal parking] and encouraging them to do business here,” he said, adding that he is taking the issue seriously. Yesterday, Mr. Moffett was in his bus on Pennsylvania Avenue east of Sixth Street NW, while 47 passengers from Seattle were touring Capitol Hill on foot. After the interview, he drove to the west front of the Capitol, where he had arranged to meet his riders.”At the end of the day, you’re stressed out,” Mr. Moffett said.Buses constantly paraded up and down, instead of parking and waiting elsewhere. A bus bearing the name of Nancy & Ludean Christian Tours continually drove around the blocks of the Capitol, seemingly unconcerned about getting in lanes blocked with traffic.”We’re constantly driving,” said a 57-year-old Ridgeway driver, who requested anonymity. He said he began driving at age 19 and had been a Metro bus driver 30 years before joining the tour company.Neither he nor Daniel L. Booker, 65, a truck and bus driver for about 50 years, has been in any fatal collision.”The last thing any driver wants is to hurt a person,” said Mr. Booker of 914 Sheridan St. NW, who drives for Martz Gray Line. “We are trained. Pedestrians aren’t.”The risks of a bus-pedestrian collision are most acute at traffic signals where pedestrians are crossing on the right side of buses turning right. That happened last week when a 7-year-old boy was struck and killed and his mother suffered serious leg injuries as a Quality Tour Transport Inc. bus turned right off F Street onto Ninth Street NW near the International Spy Museum. “There’s a blind spot there,” between the front and back wheels when the driver looks out the right side, Mr. Booker said. “If you don’t see them, you hit them.”Drivers constantly use a “two-second sweep,” Mr. Booker said, explaining that it takes two seconds to look into the left rearview mirror, then in front of the windshield and into the right rearview mirror. “You do that constantly.” “It takes time to stop,” he said, explaining that a bus going 10 miles per hour is moving 15 feet per second. Even after brakes are applied, the heavy bus moves forward.Mr. Williams said yesterday that he is concerned about recent pedestrian deaths caused by tour buses in the District and neighboring Rosslyn. A woman crossing a street on Tuesday morning was struck and killed by a commuter bus, the second death caused by a bus in a week. Mr. Williams yesterday responded to questions from The Washington Times that were raised by tour bus drivers angry about the recent increase in fines for parking tickets. The fine for illegally parked tour buses and commercial vehicles went from $20 to $500, as The Times reported in March. The increase caused some drivers to consider quitting their jobs. After approving legislation to increase parking fines for meters, no-parking zones and tour buses, the D.C. Council voted themselves a parking exemption in July last year, similar to one enjoyed by members of Congress. The law allows them to park in any spot not expressly restricted by a posted sign — expired meters, time-restricted neighborhood zones and at the end of curbs — without threat of receiving tickets. Even when tour bus drivers do find temporary parking, they can be fined $500 if the bus engine is left idling. Troy Bryant, 35, of Baltimore, who drives for H&B Tour and Travel, said that unless the engine is idling the buses become very cold in the winter, and without the air conditioners running in the summer it can be sweltering inside. Mr. Bryant also had stopped his bus at the curb along Pennsylvania near Sixth Street yesterday.Bus drivers said another problem while moving throughout downtown is that they must stay alert because pedestrians often cheat at crossing lights.Stephen Sniegoski, 54, a U.S. Department of Education employee from Adelphi, said he has become more aware of pedestrian violations since the recent deaths of pedestrians killed by tour buses.”I thought about it when I saw some people jaywalking. A bus was coming,” said Mr. Sniegoski while on his noon-hour walk. “It looked like they were having too much faith.”

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