- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

The city has started a crackdown, including arrests, in response to the roughly 150 vandalized or broken parking meters in Northwest that are costing the city thousands of dollars in lost revenue, officials said yesterday.

Broken meters cost the city about $500,000, or 4 percent, of the roughly $13.5 million taken in annually, said Douglas E. Noble, chief traffic engineer for the Department of Transportation.

Mr. Noble acknowledged that about 1,000 of the city’s 16,300 meters are out of service at any time.

But Terry Lynch, community activist and executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said the problem is worse in such commercial corridors as Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park.

“The failure to keep meters functioning and clean of graffiti and defacement is adding up to big losses for everyone,” he said. “It is really incredible that the city — given the huge revenue it is making and the impact the lost parking has on businesses and neighborhoods — is not effectively maintaining the parking meters.”

The organization, which represents 39 D.C. churches, has over the past two months reported to the city in detail hundreds of broken and missing meters, and whole blocks without signs or meters.

Mr. Noble acknowledged the high number of problems in some areas and said the city is pursuing those who cause most of the problems by vandalizing or jamming the meters.

“We’ve launched a joint program with [D.C.] police to catch vandals,” he said. The program started about three months ago and three persons have been arrested so far, Mr. Noble said.

Mr. Lynch said vandalism is just one of many problems.

“The meters either have glass that makes the [numbers] illegible or they take the money and do not give the credit,” he said. “At $25 a ticket, it’s a huge windfall.”

Mr. Lynch said the city has more than enough resources to properly maintain the meters, “but the management side seems to be as broken as the meters.”

He said another problem is that vehicles from construction or service companies often camp in front of broken meters, which keeps customers from going to restaurants, small businesses, churches and offices.

Alec Akopov, owner of Central Liquors, at 917 F St. NW, said malfunctioning meters near his store are “absolutely disorganizing things right now.”

The workers “get there at 7 in the morning and stay there almost all day,” he said. “It’s very difficult to work now. I’m losing business.”

Yesterday, D.C. Auditor Deborah Nichols confirmed that the office is reviewing the transportation department’s oversight of the city’s parking-meter contract with Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services, which began in 1998. However, she declined to give specifics.

Under the contract, which ends in September, the company is paid $3.5 million to oversee the meters. Calls to the company, which also handles the city’s automated traffic-enforcement program, were not returned.

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