- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Acknowledging years of frustration on the part of motorists, a D.C. Council member on Tuesday proposed an ambitious plan to create a new agency that would reform the way traffic tickets are issued, processed and adjudicated.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, who oversees the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, said her plan would overhaul the responsibilities of the D.C. Department of Transportation, Department of Public Works, and Department of Motor Vehicles. Each agency has some oversight of the ticketing process in the District, with DDOT making parking policy decisions, public works employees writing many of the tickets, and the DMV adjudicating disputes.

“We’re going to take all three of those things and put them in a new department of parking management,” said Ms. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, as she introduced the bill.

In fiscal 2013, the District issued 1.8 million parking tickets and collected $84.4 million in parking-related fines, according to John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

In the first four months of fiscal 2014, the District’s DMV reported adjudicating more than 500,000 parking tickets, 27,000 moving citations, and 83,000 automated enforcement citations, according to the agency’s oversight report. The average length of time that it takes to close a ticket case is about 137 days.

The sheer volume of tickets, coupled with the difficulties that motorists have challenging them, show the ticketing process is ripe for revamping, said Mr. Townsend, whose organization has advocated for reforms.

“This proposed measure will bring major and much-needed changes to the parking ticketing process in the District, which is nightmarish and horrendous,” he said.

He also applauded Ms. Cheh for taking on the whole problematic structure rather than trying to make piecemeal fixes.

“We simply wanted an ombudsman that could step in and umpire those cases. Mary Cheh went above and beyond that,” he said.

The legislation, which also seeks to reform other aspects of city transit authority, received healthy support upon introduction, with eight other council members signing on as sponsors or co-sponsors to the bill.

It’s hardly the first time transportation responsibilities have been shuffled. Prior to the formation of the DMV in 1998, all transportation matters fell under the Department of Public Works. DDOT was created in 2002.

“Since DDOT was created we haven’t really had a thoughtful look at how it has operates,” said Ms. Cheh, who has overseen the transportation committee for three years. “There are many issues that really could be better addressed by a different organization.”

Ms. Cheh‘s spokesman, Devin Barrington-Ward, said there was no cost estimate for the reorganization, but added that many of the posts called for by the legislation already exist and would just need to be reshuffled.

“We’re not eliminating any jobs,” he said.

Under the proposed legislation, a Department of Parking Management would be formed and would have authority over all traffic and parking tickets, including automated traffic enforcement citations. It would also be able to set and roll out parking policies more efficiently than DDOT, Ms. Cheh said, pointing to the failed rollout of the city’s “red top” meters, meant to be designated for handicapped parking, as well as the continuing problems with the city’s visitor parking passes.

The legislation would also change the structure of transportation oversight in the city. It would create a new agency, the District Transit Authority, meant to take over DDOT‘s planning responsibilities for transportation projects such as the city’s bikeshare and streetcar programs.

DDOT has not really done an effective job with that,” Ms. Cheh said.

The new authority would be tasked with regulation of taxicabs and other vehicles for hire in the city as the D.C. Taxicab Commission would be abolished.

Ms. Cheh said she expects to host a series of discussions to get input on the bill over the course of the next several months and expects to be flexible in amending the legislation along the way.

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