District of Columbia transportation officials are exploring whether they should drop most, if not all, parking meter payments and time restrictions on Saturdays. The one who sparked the study is Mayor Marion Barry himself.

MetroScene asked yesterday whether it wasn't about time the city either enforced or changed the restrictions, notably in the K Street area but also in other parts of the city. Although most curbside and meter signs say parking restrictions are in effect on Saturdays, few tickets are issued. As a result, the city is losing revenue and the traffic laws are losing credibility.

Fred Caponiti, the D.C. Transportation Department's parking enforcement chief, acknowledged yesterday that--except in Georgetown--his agency does not have any of its civilian ticket-writing personnel on duty on Saturdays. Hence all enforcement is at the whim of police officers, who have power to issue tickets but tend to restrict their activity to especially egregious situations such as cars blocking turn lanes and bus-loading zones.

Although no announcement has been made, Caponiti said his office is "in the process of evaluating the whole Saturday regulatory policy. This dates back to a meeting with the mayor in the spring. He asked, 'Why not lift the restrictions and allow Saturday parking?' "

It's possible, Caponiti said, that meter restrictions would continue on active business streets, if the merchants want to keep them in order to assure a turnover of spaces for customers.

That would be logical, in MetroScene's view, in such busy areas as lower Connecticut Avenue, Woodley Park, Friendship Heights, Capitol Hill, parts of old downtown, segments of Georgia Avenue and perhaps H Street NE. But it doesn't make much sense in office areas that are moribund on weekends. He stressed that merchants will be consulted before changes are made.

"In the meantime, what the sign says is what's in effect," said Caponiti, unwilling to issue a blanket amnesty for those of us who might selectively and unluckily get a Saturday ticket.