A postcard from A. Podolsky posed a familiar question. It said: "During the 5 p.m. rush hour, there are cops at 14th and I Streets NW and at 14th and F. They are trying to expedite traffic.
"Yet a few yards away, along the curb, there are illegally parked cars. Nobody orders the drivers to move, nobody issues any tickets. Why? It is a ridiculous situation."
I have been asking that question for so many years that I thought I could guess the answer that would be given to me. But I was wrong.
Capt. Wayne A. Layfield hasn't been head of the police traffic division long enough to form the opinion that nothing can be done, so I found him quite optimistic that something can and will be done, and soon.
"It's quite a coincidence that you should call at his moment," Capt. Layfield said to me. "Lt. Morrison was just in here a minute ago to tell me that illegal parkers are his biggest problem in moving Christmas traffic. "Parking abreast' violations have become particularly frequent and troublesome, he told me."
I assumed that the Lt. Morrison he was talking about was Sammie D. of the training division, and that "parking abreast" is what we laymen call double parking. "What was your reaction to Lt. Morrison's report?" I asked.
"Very frankly," Capt. Layfield said, "he recommended that we have no choice but to get after the violators, and I agreed with him, and told him to start doing it."
Small wonder.A vehicle that stops in the curb lane when the curb lane is supposed to be carrying moving vehicles is a hazard as well as an impediment. Drivers who find themselves trapped behind a stopped car have a difficult time getting around it safely, and if a collision results - even a minor collision - there is additional disruption to traffic.
Why is a training division official running the Christmas detail for traffic? Because our police department has far fewer men than it once had, and every unit is shorthanded. For the Christmas crunch, traffic borrows people from the training division, from staff personnel at headquarters, and from any other division that can make help available. "Some of these people haven't directed traffic in 10 years," Capt. Layfield said. "It takes them a couple of days to get back into the swing of it."
It's not just 14th Street that gets special attention from the traffic division during December. Many intersections in the First, Second and Third Districts are manned, and six extra police tow trucks are assigned to the downtown area to haul away rush hour violators. There are even some extra scootermen working on the detail.
So I hope a word to the wise will be sufficient: Unless you have stopped because all traffic has temporarily stopped moving, the moment your car halts in the curb lane you are (according to the definition in the traffic regulations) "parked." Illegal parking during the rush hour costs $25, even if you are sitting behind the steering wheel with your motor running when the policeman pulls his ticket book out of his pocket. And if your car must be towed away, there's an extra charge for that.
When does the New! Improved! system of enforcement go into effect? Right now. This morning. Don't say I didn't warn you.