Drivers with Maryland or Virginia license plates will be given new incentive to pay their outstanding District of Columbia parking tickets starting Monday -- the Denver boot.
Until now, many suburbanites have ignored D.C. parking tickets because the city could not prosecute them for nonpayment. But on Monday 10 crews will begin patrolling city streets looking for suburban cars with unpaid traffic tickets.
When an offending vehicle is found, the crews will attach a boot, or heavy metal clamp, to the front wheel of of the car. The car then cannot be moved until its owner has apid all his outstanding parking tickets in cash plus an additional $25 booting fee.
When the entire amount has been paid at 601 Indiana Ave. NW., where the District Department of Transportation has opened a new office, a crew will be dispatched to remove the boot.
"We find this program a good way to bring the law to the attention of people who think the law doesn't apply to them," said DOT director Douglas N. Schneider Jr.
The expanding "booting" program is part of a three-month-old crackdown on illegal parkers. In October 49 additional employes began patrolling the city's parking spaces, and they now issue about 3,500 tickets daily.
Earlier this month, 25 new tow trucks began hauling illegally parked cars to impoundment lots. So far 2,450 drivers have had to pay $50 to get their cars back.
The third part of the city government's new parking program is the decriminalization of parking infractions and minor moving traffic violations. Under the decrminalization plan, these offenses would be heard by civilian hearing examiners. instead of D.C. Superior Court judges.
This was also expected to go into effect Monday, but has been delayed for as long as a month after city lawyers said the public should be given more time to comment on proposed regulations for the new hearing examiner system. Rules were first published in November, but were later revised and published Friday.
The delay in instituting the hearing examiner system will aslo provide a reprieve for employes of foreign embassies, who will be subject to the city's parking laws under the new systme.
Foreign embassy workers have been immune from prosecution for parking violations, but they will be subject to towing, "booting" and parking fines under the new hearing examiner system unless they can show that the violation occurred during the perfomance of an "official" embassy act.
The city has aimed its new stepped up "booting" program at suburbanites, Scheneider said, becasue city residents are required to pay back parking ticket before thy can get new license tags.
About 10,000 cars receive the boot each year, but uner the new program about 30,000 cars are expected to be booted. This increases a scofflaw's chances of being booted from 1 in 10 to 1 in 3, Schneider said.
Schneider said the new program already has improved traffic downtown, allowed Metrobuses to travel faster, increased the likelihood that motorists will feed parking meters and created a turnover of cars at the meters.
In a related development, D.C. City Council member David A. Clark (D-Ward 1) introduced a bill Friday to curb the towing program and reduce the towing fee from $50 to $25. Some motorists, whose cars were towed, have complained bitterly that their cars were impounded for minor infractios.