- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Help could be on the way for drivers who spend part of their day trapped in the gridlock that often envelopes downtown Washington.

A task force that has been looking at ways to get things moving presented its report yesterday. Its recommendations include reducing the amount of subsidized parking for government workers, installing meters at loading-zone spaces and limiting the number of left turns motorists can make.

The task force found that turning vehicles are the No. 1 reason for congestion, followed by double parkers and vehicles stopped in restricted lanes.

The group, commissioned by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. Council, suggested advocating public transit, improving the flow of traffic and working with private garages to provide lower, short-term rates to draw drivers.

The panel also called for an end to subsidized parking for government employees, starting with city workers.

The amount of subsidy varies depending on agency and employee, said Dan Tangherlini, director of the city’s Department of Transportation, who has $40 deducted from his paycheck every month for a parking space at a government building.

The rate would be three to four times elsewhere, he said.

“That kind of subsidy encourages people to drive who might otherwise take transit,” Mr. Tangherlini said.

The report also recommends higher fines for motorists who park in restricted spaces during rush hours, although Mr. Tangherlini said city fines are already rather steep.

But he is open to the suggestion that Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District workers write tickets for parking violations. The city already has adopted one of the recommendations by using city workers to direct traffic during rush hours.

Tour-bus drivers could have a designated area to park instead of circling the block. There is a plan to give Metro buses green lights, by installing a sensor linked to traffic lights, which could help keep them running on time and encourage more people to use the bus.

Next year, the city is scheduled to start running the Downtown Circulator buses.

The report also recommends looking at bus and bike lanes, widening crosswalks and sidewalks, and coordinating with construction companies so that they don’t take up lanes and sidewalks.

Some changes require D.C. Council approval and others need federal funding, Mr. Tangherlini said.

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