- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2007

Dozens of companies doing business in the District get so many parking citations that they pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in fines and occasionally ask customers for help.

“I don’t like doing it, but there are certain parts of town where I have to tell the customer, ‘Look, parking-wise, it’s going to have to be on you,’ ” said David Spadaro, owner of the J.P. Spadaro & Sons plumbing company, which gets about 20 tickets a month.

Large companies such as UPS and FedEx can pay up to tens of thousands of dollars a month in D.C. parking tickets, according to city records.

Many companies have enrolled in a special program in which the District bills businesses about once a month to pay off parking tickets.

The program doesn’t give the companies a break on ticket prices, but it helps them avoid having their vehicles immobilized — or “booted” — for having too many tickets. Companies enrolled in the city’s fleet-adjudication program include ABC News, CNN, Verizon and Pitney Bowes.

Yearly figures for the city program were not available, and a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles could not be reached. But records obtained through the DMV’s Office of General Counsel showed that on a typical day earlier this year, UPS owed $28,755 on 471 open tickets.

That’s second only to its competitor FedEx Corp., which had 493 open tickets for $30,630. Each company had more than 100 vehicles ticketed. The only other company with more than $10,000 in open tickets was Verizon, owing $10,430 on 289 tickets.

A UPS spokesman said the company encourages its drivers not to get tickets, but added the tickets are sometimes an unavoidable cost of doing business.

“We train our drivers to try to avoid tickets, but we have to provide service to our customers,” said spokesman Malcolm Berkley.

Mr. Berkley also said UPS has enrolled in parking-adjudication programs in other cities such as San Francisco and New York City. “It’s a vehicle that allows us to manage the tickets we do receive,” he said.

J.P. Spadaro & Sons is not the only small business getting so many tickets that it must occasionally pass along the cost to customers.

Leroy Jackson of John C. Flood of D.C. Inc., a plumbing company, said a major problem is that on-street parking in many residential sections is for a maximum of two hours, but most jobs take all day.

Mr. Jackson said the company now pays off its tickets in bulk each month, after having spent years unsuccessfully trying to fight them. Once, he said, the company lost its fight against a ticket issued while an employee was installing a boiler for a family that had no heat during the winter.

Like any operating expense, the price can be passed to customers, he said.

Mr. Jackson said contractors can get parking permits if customers apply in person to the District, but the trip can take hours, so few bother.

The District makes more than $65 million in revenue from parking tickets each year on more than 1.6 million citations annually. But city leaders generally are exempted from the fines.

In July 2002, the D.C. Council voted to exempt itself from the city’s parking regulations. The measure, which came after traffic-enforcement officers began cracking down on the illegally parked vehicles of council members, was sponsored by council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, and supported by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat who then was a council member representing Ward 4.

The exemption, approved but criticized at the time by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, 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.

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