- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Parking meters in the District became more costly Wednesday, seven months after the city increased fines for parking violations.

The rate for all parking meters across the city is now $2.30 an hour, up from $2 an hour in busy downtown areas and 75 cents an hour in the District’s so-called “normal demand zones.”

The new meter rates will bring in an additional $2 million for the District this year, according to a projection from the American Automobile Association. At the end of this fiscal year in September, AAA predicts the city will collect about $40 million in meter revenue.

The increased parking revenue makes up for a shortfall in the fiscal 2016 budget. About $30 million will cover maintenance cost of the electric meters and the remaining $10 will go into the District’s annual contribution to Metro funding, said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

“On a budget spreadsheet, a little here and a little there will add up to a lot more revenue for the city’s bottom line,” Mr. Townsend said.

A source from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration, speaking on background, said that the D.C. Council had considered extending paid parking hours, but that would have required an overhaul of parking signage around the city. Increasing the price of meters seemed a more sensible option, the source said.

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Parking enforcement, especially fines for violations, has long been a revenue generator for the city. In fiscal 2015, the city collected nearly $88 million in parking fines — about $4 million more than in 2014 — according to data AAA collected via a Freedom of Information Act request.

In October, the council approved a budget measure that increased the fine for parking at an expired meter in a commercial or residential area from $25 to $30. In residential parking zones, fines for violations increased from $30 to $35. Altogether, the revenue from parking fines could add about $1.3 million to the city budget per year.

The increased fines have coincided with a crackdown on violations. AAA reported that D.C. parking enforcement agencies issued 521,844 citations in the first four months of 2015. By the end of February of this year, the number of citations already had reached 543,067.

Most citations are written by the 195 officers of the District’s Parking Enforcement Management Administration. In addition, about 30 other agencies are authorized to issue parking citations in the city. AAA said that, altogether, PEMA officers last year wrote a total of 1,692,027 parking tickets, accounting for $87,787,232 of revenue.

“These changes represent a bonanza for the city’s coffers, but motorists gain nothing,” Mr. Townsend said. “The city is ripping off motorists without adding a single parking space to the curbside parking inventory.”

A report Tuesday from the D.C. Inspector General’s Office noted that the city also is losing money from wrongly issuing parking tickets. About 45 percent of motorists who appealed their parking citations in fiscal 2014 won their cases, and the primary reason was that they did not deserve to be fined in the first place, the report says. Of the 1,684,863 fines issued in 2014, about 121,000 recipients — or 7.2 percent — appealed their citations.

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• Faith E. Pinho can be reached at fpinho@washingtontimes.com.

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