- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

The District last year issued $99 million worth of parking tickets, twice the amount in 1999 when Mayor Anthony A. Williams took office.

D.C. officials said the increase is a response to public outcry, not an aggressive, money-making initiative.

“In the last several years, at the request of District residents and businesses, the Department of Public Works has tripled the number of parking officers that are charged with monitoring curbside parking,” said agency spokeswoman Mary Myers. “And we have seen that there is plenty of work for them to do.”

Though the number of D.C. ticket writers more than tripled from 75 in 2000 to 235 in 2002, Miss Myers said they are not told to fill a quota.

She also said the total numbers of tickets written has declined since the record high of 2.3 million in 1997.

Such factors as weather or the number of construction projects in the city, Miss Myers said, can alter the number of tickets written. She said the amount of money collected can also fluctuate, depending on how many parking tickets are dismissed or not paid.

The District is not alone in its efforts to fill municipal coffers with revenue from parking tickets.

Recent published reports indicate that revenues derived from parking fluctuate from city to city. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, with 15,000 meters and several garages, collected $114 million last year. Boston collected $65 million. In Baltimore, the total parking revenue was $15 million.

But comparisons among cities depend on a number of factors, including population, land area, the number of licensed drivers, the number of commuter vehicles and the value of parking fines.

Chris Hoene, a research manager with the National League of Cities, said he does not think that city officials try to issue more tickets when times get tight, but that they are aware they can raise revenue by making their agencies more efficient.

“I think what cities do do is crack down on enforcement,” he said.

Mr. Williams is president of the National League of Cities.

Mr. Hoene said the trend toward increasing fines and fees instead of raising taxes to balance city budgets has been around for decades.

“They have been, over the last three decades, extremely important as an alternative revenue to local taxes,” he said. “I think there is a sense after two or three decades that we are getting to the point where people are saying, ‘Look, I’m taxed, I’m fee’d-out.’ ”

Officials for the DPW said the city’s 235 ticket writers wrote 1.6 million parking tickets in each of the past three years. In 1999, the 75 ticket writers wrote just over half that number, 801,573. During that six-year span, fines for the most frequently violated parking laws were increased.

In the past six years, the District has collected more than $266 million from parking tickets, all of which goes to the city’s general fund.

The city issued $45.3 million worth of parking tickets in fiscal 1999, according to the public works department. The total increased in each of the subsequent years.

The $99 million figure was $1 million more than parking officers issued in fiscal 2003. However, in fiscal 2004 the city collected $53 million in parking ticket revenue, down from $57.8 million in fiscal 2003.

The Williams administration has been accused of using other law enforcement programs to generate revenue for the city.

In a letter sent recently to three council members, Lon Anderson, an official with AAA Mid-Atlantic, requested a public hearing on the use of red-light and speed-camera technology in the city.

Mr. Anderson wrote that an increasing number of motorists think the D.C. government is using red-light and speed-camera technology to raise money, not to protect lives, as D.C. police officials maintain.

The fines from red-light cameras at 39 intersections have totaled more than $28 million since the program was started in 1999, Mr. Williams’ first year in office. Since August 2001, speed cameras have been placed in eight police cruisers that monitor 75 designated spots throughout the District. The program has generated more than $63 million in fines.

Miss Myers said the Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies in the city also write parking tickets.

News of the increase in the total worth of tickets issued comes as two car-rental firms are seeking permission from the District to take over as many as 140 public curbside parking spaces. The expansion would put the cars curbside in commercial and residential neighborhoods. The firms call the proposed 140 spaces, including 29 in Adams Morgan, a “wish list.”

Miss Myers said the District has added 730 parking meters in the past year, bringing the total to 17,000. City officials also monitor 3,500 city blocks of restricted parking spaces.

The D.C. Council voted in July 2002 to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations. The measure, coming after a year in which traffic-enforcement officers had cracked down on illegally parked cars of council members, was sponsored by council member Carol Schwartz and supported by council members Kevin P. Chavous, Jack Evans, Sandy Allen, Adrian M. Fenty, David A. Catania, Harold Brazil, Vincent B. Orange Sr., Linda W. Cropp and Jim Graham. Phil Mendelson, Kathy Patterson and Sharon Ambrose voted no.

The exemption, approved but criticized at the time by Mr. Williams, extended to council members the same parking privileges enjoyed by members of Congress, including the freedom to park in bus zones, in restricted spaces near intersections, at building entrances and on restricted residential streets. It also freed council members from having to put money in parking meters. Mr. Brazil, Mr. Chavous and Mrs. Allen all lost re-election bids last year.

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