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Posted at 02:46 PM ET, 03/20/2012

D.C. Council temporarily halts new parking meter program

The D.C. Councils is temporarily halting the District’s new red top meter program, a setback for Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) effort to reserve nearly one in 10 city meters for disabled motorists.

Under emergency legislation approved by the council, the Department of Transportation was directed to stop writing tickets to non-disabled motorists who park at a red meter. Motorists with disabled parking placards will also continue to be able to park at any city meter for free for up to double the maximum time, council members said.

The council will revisit the issue in 90 days, after the Gray administration submits a detailed report on what it was trying to accomplish by implementing the red top meters.

The Department of Transportation was not immediately able to say when ticketing would be suspended.

“This whole thing was difficult to understand and we were not prepared,” said council member Mary M. Cheh (D), who oversees transportation issues for the council. “There was not enough input. This legislation will say, as of now, don’t do anything else until we have a chance to evaluate. “

The Department of Transportation unveiled the red meters this month to try to crack down on motorists who use fraudulent disabled parking placards. Because disabled drivers in the District have not had to pay for metered parking, the administration argued that the fraud was consuming too much available parking.

But the red top meter program has confused both activists for the disabled and motorists.

Under the program, only motorists with disabled placards would be allowed to park at red meters, dozens of which have been set up downtown. Violators were subject to $250 fines. However, drivers with disabled placards would no longer receive free parking, even at the red top meters.

The Department of Transportation planned to install a total of 1,100 red top meters, converting about 9 percent of all parking meters. In the 800 block of 12th Street NW Downtown, for example, four of nine meters have been converted to red tops.

Council member Muriel D. Bowser (D-Ward 4), who introduced the emergency legislation, argued Tuesday that she was disturbed that the Gray administration implemented the program without soliciting input from the public or the council.

“We need an analysis not only of reserved parking, but what’s going to be available for other uses,” Bowser said. “This represents a significant policy change that hasn’t been adequately debated by this council and it amounts to a fee.”

Department of Transportation officials were not immediately available to comment Tuesday on the council vote. But on Monday, administration officials noted that the District has already spent $200,000 on the new meters.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By  |  02:46 PM ET, 03/20/2012

 
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