- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

Commuters regularly get away with illegal parking in neighborhoods where D.C. vehicle owners are required to buy permits because ticket writers patrol only about 25 percent of those communities each day, residents and elected officials say.

The District is planning to increase the annual $15 fee for residential parking permits but will keep the fine for violating the two-hour limit at $30.

“I think people … want their privileges monitored and enforced, so that if they are paying for [a permit] they want that enforced,” said D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

“It doesn’t sound to me like they are doing it for 75 percent of the neighborhoods, and that’s obviously a problem,” Mr. Graham said. “What’s the point of paying for it if you don’t get it enforced?”

Ken Jarboe, a commissioner on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, said he is not concerned most about whether every neighborhood is covered, but about ticket writers skipping areas close to Metro stations where commuters frequently park.

“In some areas, once every four days is fine because there’s not a lot of nonresidents,” he said. “But in some of our neighborhoods, for example, around Metro stops, they need to be there constantly. If the commuters figure out where the enforcers are going to be, they can avoid them.”

Transportation officials report that the District has 175,000 more cars than parking spaces on any given day.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) schedules daily patrols for about one-quarter of the 3,500 city blocks where residential parking permits are required. Of its 175 ticket writers, 87 monitor parking meters and 88 patrol residential parking areas.

“The parking officers are rotated throughout the entire [residential parking] areas,” DPW spokeswoman Mary Myers said. “They’re rotated all the time so that the coverage is certainly ongoing. Some areas may have more coverage for a time, then slightly less coverage. There’s an ebb and flow.”

Baltimore, a city of similar size to the District, has 37 parking areas. The city’s 38 parking enforcers patrol 35 of those areas daily, Baltimore officials say. Two areas around Oriole Park at Camden Yards are patrolled only on game days.

In Boston, another similarly sized city, about 180 parking enforcers patrol downtown areas every day and other areas about three times a week, officials there say.

Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said he has heard D.C. residents’ complaints about a lack of parking in their neighborhoods.

“They say they don’t think the parking laws are enforced. This is not normally the kind of thing we see in D.C., where they do very, very well milking traffic issues for motorists,” Mr. Anderson said.

Nonetheless, he said, D.C. parking enforcement “is a huge problem. … Obviously, they need to do better to enforce the parking.

“When a product isn’t worth much, should you charge more for it? And what we are hearing is that these parking permits aren’t worth what they should be because we aren’t getting what we pay for already.”

The District reported issuing $69 million worth of parking tickets last year, which includes meters and permits, but would not separate the figures.

The D.C. Council, which exempted its members from parking regulations in 2002, is considering legislation that would limit parking permits to three per household and increase the annual permit fee to $25 for a first car, $50 for a second and $100 for a third.

“People pay for this permit, and one of the reasons they pay for it is to reduce the number of cars in the neighborhood,” said Logan Circle resident Christopher Dyer, a commissioner on ANC 2F.

“But on the other hand [regarding the budget], the question is whether our money is best spent making sure our ticket writers are writing tickets or building a school,” Mr. Dyer said.

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