- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006

The District issued $69 million worth of parking tickets in fiscal 2005, the fifth straight year of increases, city officials said.

The summary comes at the same time that Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, has announced that the city had a fiscal 2005 budget surplus of $370 million, in part because of parking-ticket revenue.

Officials say the increases are mostly the result of bigger fines and tougher enforcement to discourage motorists from overstaying at meters and in zoned-parking districts in a city that has 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces on any given day.

Critics, however, say the Williams administration has increased the fines, hired more ticket writers and added more traffic cameras primarily to make money.

In March 2003, fines increased from $20 to $30 for parking in an alley, disobeying an official sign, parking in a no-parking zone and parking for more than two hours in a residential parking area without a permit.

Expired-meter fines increased from $15 to $25, and the fine for a commercial bus or sightseeing vehicle parked in front of a residence or in another illegal space went from $20 to $500.

The speed cameras have generated nearly $97 million in fines since their inception in 2001, including a record $28.9 million last year, statistics show. The city’s 49 red-light cameras have generated more than $35 million since 1999, including $5.2 million last year, statistics show.

In July 2002, the D.C. Council voted to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations when on official business, which was generously defined.

The $69 million worth of tickets issued last year is $3 million more than issued in 2004, said D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officials.

Agency officials also said they collected $73.8 million in tickets in 2005 — $4.8 million more than issued and $7.8 million more than collected in 2004.

They said the roughly $5 million more collected than issued in 2004 could be the result of motorists’ paying in 2005 for tickets issued the previous year.

“Someone may have come to pay taxes and said, ‘Oh my …, look at all these tickets I have,’ then paid them from as far back as 1999,” said Janis Hazel, a spokeswoman for the DMV. “Also, on any day, the face value on that ticket may have … increased because the person didn’t pay it.”

Attempts to obtain accurate information on exactly how much the DMV collects has frustrated Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“That they are making money so fast off motorists that they can’t count it accurately isn’t surprising,” he said. “We would hope that the District would keep one set of books and that they would be accurate.”

The agency twice revised its report on the worth of tickets issued and collected in 2004 by the city’s Department of Public Works.

Early last February, public works officials told The Washington Times that $99 million worth of tickets were issued and $53 million worth were collected in 2004. A few days later, DMV officials said $104 million worth of tickets were issued and $83 million worth were collected that year.

On Jan. 30, DMV officials said $66 million worth of tickets were issued, not $69 million. The officials said they did not have the data on the amount collected in 2004.

DMV officials said the numbers change because of the way the data is requested from ACS State & Local Solutions Inc., the company contracted by the District to process the parking and red-light and speeding-camera tickets.

“The inquiries were going to different agencies and were being posed to our vendor differently, which is why there were variations,” Miss Hazel said.

She also said the information is a public record, but requests from news-gathering agencies are different than those from customers.

“You are not in front of us right now requesting a driver service,” Miss Hazel said. “You are not a customer in the direct-services sense.”

Other DMV officials, however, said they are working with ACS so that everybody can receive the same information promptly. ACS holds a $9.2 million contract with the District that was renewed in December. City officials said the company is not paid on commission.

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