District of Columbia transportation officials, heeding scores of complaints from City Council members and motorists, have cut back their tough three-month-old towing program in some of the city's most congested residential neighborhoods.
"We've gotten a tenmendous amount of flack from residents and business people, complaining vehemently 'where can we go?'" in neighborhoods lacking an adequate number of off-street and legal parking spaces said John Brophy, head of the parking enforcement bureau.
Therefore, during the last month, "We've relaxed the towing and ticketing" in Adams-Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and the neighborhood surrounding the Capitol, Brophy said.
"We were probably towing more cars than we needed to," he continued. "We no longer have the kind of sweep enforcement we once did."
More than 14,000 illegally parked cars have been hauled off city streets since the stringent towing program began Jan. 8, according to statistics compiled by Brophy's office.
Towed motorists are fined $50 plus the amount of the ticket incurred.
Brophy said the city's blue and white tow trucks will no longer remove cars parked in loading zones or too close to an intersection or a fire hydrant in the four affected neighborhoods, although such cars may still be ticketed.
But, he cautioned, cars blocking hydrants, driveways, intersections or alleys will be removed.
Brophy said his office receives about 100 calls daily about the city's stricter enforcement of parking regulations. "Fifty percent are complaining about the ticketing and towing and 50 percent say everything is great or we need more enforcement," he said.
Many citizens have complained that cars are towed for trivial violations, that the $50 towing fee is exorbitant and that the system for paying fines and retrieving cars is extremely inconvenient.
Motorists must go to 601 Indiana Ave. NW to pay fines, and then to one of two city impoundment lots -- located downtown and in Georgetown -- to pick up their cars.
"The program started on an overzealous note and it is now being tempered," said John Tydings, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade.
The board supported the concentrated enforcement program, but then complained when delivery trucks were ticketed for double parking while making deliveries. Businessmen said the trucks double-parked because cars were parked in the loading zones.
D.C. City Council member David A. Clarke, whose ward includes Adams-Morgan said, "It appears they are administering the program the way it ought to have been (administered)... The community never supported a strict towing program or heavy ticketing for anything more than commuters."
Clarke, who said he has received numerous complaints about the towing, has introduced a bill to reduce the towing charge to $25 and to mandate towing only for flagrant violations.
Brophy said he has reduced the number of civilian ticket writers assigned to the neighborhoods and transferred them downtown where illegal parking is increasing again with the advent of the tourist season.
The city has prepared a pamphlet warning tourists of the towing and ticketing program. The pamphlet will be placed in city and suburban hotels, motels, parking lots, tourist offices and at tourists attractions, beginning June 1.
Also, the city is considering equipping parking meters on the Mall with warning notices that cars are towed from those streets during rush hours.