- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Parking enforcement officers in the District issued 1.6 million tickets fiscal 2011, equal to roughly six a minute, according to a report issued Wednesday by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The report also found that the city collected $50.1 million in parking fees I n the first eight months of fiscal 2011, putting it on pace to break the fiscal 2010 total of $80.4 million and the fiscal 2009 total of $70.7 million.

AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II cited three reasons for the high numbers: quick-draw enforcers, confusing signs and too few spaces.

“There’s no mercy,” he said. “There’s no pity in the city. [Parking enforcement] may be the second most requested service of the Department of Public Works, but it’s the No. 1 complaint of people who live, shop, dine and work in Washington.”

The report found that parking enforcers wrote 2 million tickets in the past 14 months, including 315,00 in the first three months of this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

AAA points out that the numbers are amassed in a limited window - considering most meters and other parking restrictions are in effect just 15 hours a day for six days a week, less roughly 10 official holidays.

“There is competition for legal curbside parking spaces in commercial and residential neighborhoods, which is what makes our enforcement activities so important to produce turnover,” DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant said.

Mr. Townsend said a major contributor to the city’s parking coffers are unwitting tourists.

“People who love the thought of being in the nation’s capital and want to come here to absorb history … end up with their lasting memory of the District that they got a $25 or $100 ticket, or ‘I got my car towed,’ ” he said.

Mr. Townsend takes issue with the frequent response to ticketed motorists that they should have used public transportation.

“Not everybody can take Metro,” he said. “And even at Metro, you have to park.”

Mr. Townsend said the city’s new pay-by-phone program has helped since its launch in late July, along with the notification system that reminds parkers that their meter time is about to expire. But he says the nearly 17,000 on-street metered spaces are not enough for the city’s needs.

He also offers advice for those fighting a ticket.

“You really have to arm yourself,” Mr. Townsend said. “If you park in the District, you have to use your cellphone, photograph everything and take copious notes.”

According to figures provided in the report, motorists contested 167,800 tickets in fiscal 2010, with 43 percent, or 72,670 tickets, being dismissed.

Roughly half of the 89,060 tickets issued from Oct. 1, 2010 through May 2011 have been dismissed, according to the report by AAA Mid-Atlantic, which says it has roughly 4 million members throughout the region.

The city kicked off a Ticket Amnesty Program on Aug. 1 that encouraged drivers to pay outstanding parking tickets issued before Jan. 1, 2010 without paying late fees.

By November - about halfway through the program - the city had collected nearly $2 million on 35,357 outstanding tickets. The program ends Jan. 27.

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