Federal Parking Fines Go Unpaid

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2008

The FBI and U.S. Armed Forces are institutions in which following the rules is supposed to be a given.

Except when it comes to paying their parking tickets.

According to a congressional report scheduled to be released today, federal workers in the District and New York City failed to pay $176,000 in fines for 1,147 tickets issued last year to their U.S. government vehicles.

Leading the way in the District were the Army, Navy and Air Force, whose employees ignored 158 tickets for $28,000 in 2007. Most were racked up by recruiters working at the Armed Forces Recruiting Center near 13th and L streets NW.

In New York, FBI agents set the worst example, accumulating $35,000 in fines and comfortably besting the Department of State ($28,000) and the Marine Corps ($20,000) in unpaid violations.

Almost half of the citations were issued during morning and evening rushes, increasing congestion and creating safety hazards, the report concludes. Other violations included parking on sidewalks, in handicapped zones and in front of fire hydrants and bus stops. Only 6 percent were for expired meters.

The report was done by the majority staff of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure at the request of the panel's chairman, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) It faults "lax fleet management practices" that enable many workers to ignore fines.

In a statement, Oberstar said: "Without sufficient oversight by management, illegal parking by government employees will continue to compromise mobility, create unsafe conditions for pedestrians and other drivers, and obstruct emergency vehicles in urban centers across the nation."

At least one agency put the blame elsewhere.

"Parking in New York City is a huge problem," Monica McLean, spokeswoman for the FBI's New York field office, said yesterday. "Unfortunately, parking facilities do not exist for a majority of FBI vehicles assigned to our division."

Tell it to the judge.

That's what District residents were doing yesterday at the city's traffic adjudication services division at 301 C St. NW. Clutching parking tickets and citations for such other violations as speeding, some lined up to contest their fines while others were resigned to paying. Not surprisingly, they weren't happy to hear that not everyone is held accountable for parking fines.

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