- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2007

The District’s parking-ticket revenue last year fell for the first time in at least six years, according to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

The revenue decline — from $66.5 million in 2005 to $66.1 million last year — corresponds with a decrease in the number of parking tickets issued by agencies in the District.

In 2005, officials issued 1,756,547 tickets for parking violations, compared with 1,629,027 last year.

City officials said they could not say with any “specificity” what could have led to a decrease in parking tickets or revenue.

Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works — which issues most of the city’s parking tickets — said explanations could range from how law-enforcement agencies authorized to write parking tickets deploy their officers to construction in the city rendering some meters unusable for a period of time.

“In any given year, there are going to be fluctuations,” Miss Grant said.

John B. Townsend II, spokes- man for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the drop could simply be because motorists now know that the odds of getting a ticket are likely in the District — where there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces on any given day.

“People are a little more aware of the risk,” Mr. Townsend said.

News of the parking-revenue decrease follows a report this month by The Washington Times, which cites statistics showing a decline in revenue from the city’s red-light camera program during a time when many of the automated devices were broken.

During the final month of last year, the red-light cameras generated more than $451,000 in fines, compared with $190,788 in April — the lowest total paid by red-light runners since November 1999, three months after the program’s inception.

The decreases are unlikely to have any drastic effect on the District’s budget.

William Singer, chief of budget execution for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, said revenue estimates are continually revised by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the city’s finances are balanced accordingly.

Parking and red-light fines also are relatively small revenue sources compared with the District’s income, property and sales taxes, Mr. Singer said.

Still, the fall in parking revenue is a departure from an upward trend in the District’s parking fine and ticket totals, which had sparked accusations that past city officials increased parking fines, hired more ticket writers and added traffic cameras primarily to make money.

Under Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 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 that year as well.

The fiscal 2006 Budget Support Act proposed by Mr. Williams and passed by the D.C. Council also included nine parking fine increases that officials expected would add to the District’s non-tax revenue by $1.3 million, according to budget documents.

The increases included raising the fine for parking within 25 feet of a stop sign from $20 to $50 and parking in a bus stand or zone from $50 to $100.

The 2006 revenue and ticket totals also show an apparent disconnect between the city’s parking enforcement crews and the end result of their work.

The Times reported in March that the District has one of the most aggressive campaigns among U.S. cities to clamp down on motorists with outstanding parking tickets, and collected more than $3.3 million last year by immobilizing vehicles with mechanical “boots” until the fines were paid.

To have a boot removed, motorists must pay $50 and all outstanding parking fines. The Times also reported last month that city records showed 302 vehicles with 26 or more open parking tickets that added up to more than $1.1 million in fines.

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