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Sweeper Cams Just Part of D.C. Plan for Broader Parking Enforcement

D.C. Parking and Traffic Control Officer Traci West gives a ticket for double parking to a truck driver near Weschler's auction house on E Street NW.
D.C. Parking and Traffic Control Officer Traci West gives a ticket for double parking to a truck driver near Weschler's auction house on E Street NW. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 22, 2009

Maricruz MaGowan, an economist who lives in Bethesda and works downtown, considers the District's aggressive parking enforcement program a hidden commuter tax.

"This is their way of assessing a tax to drive through D.C.," MaGowan said this week as she paid a $50 ticket, which she got despite racing to move her car before rush hour. The citation indicates that she was four minutes late. "They target drivers from Maryland and Virginia. If they need the money, enact a tax on drivers who use the streets, but do it openly. This is ridiculous."

Sandra Aull, who lives in Columbia Heights, says the parking enforcers are just as ruthless on city dwellers.

"When you live around here, you get tired of the tickets," Aull said. "It makes it hard to have a car. Every little thing, they give us a ticket for."

Over the next year, hundreds of thousands of commuters and D.C. residents could experience similar frustrations as the city prepares for a major expansion in its parking enforcement.

The campaign, which comes as the city attempts to close an $800 million shortfall, will target night owls who swarm into neighborhoods on the weekends, residents who don't have parking permits for specific neighborhoods and anyone who lives on a street that is cleaned weekly by a street sweeper.

The District now issues about 1.5 million tickets annually -- 70 percent to motorists who live outside the city -- not counting red light and speed camera citations. That's more than triple the number of parking tickets issued in Baltimore. Parking control officers in the District, population 600,000, write about half as many tickets as those in the city of Los Angeles, population 4 million.

But in fashioning the city's fiscal 2010 budget, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the D.C. Council embraced proposals that could send ticketing rates soaring even higher.

City leaders project that attaching cameras to street sweepers will reap 237,000 more tickets in fiscal 2010. The cameras will take pictures of vehicles that have not been moved for street cleanings, and the city will mail $30 tickets to violators.

The tickets will generate about $7 million, but Fenty said it's not the money the city is after.

"It's really about clean streets and quality of life, but you also have to assign some budget numbers to these things," said Fenty, who has not approved the city budget.

The sweeper cams are just the beginning.

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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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