The District government, responding to complaints of congestion in commercial areas and commuters parking in residential neighborhoods, increased parking fines across the board yesterday, a move that raised the basic expired meter penalty from $10 to $15.
The fine for parking for more than two hours in a residential neighborhood without the sticker issued to persons who live there doubled, from $10 to $20.
In meetings with residents, said parking services chief Fred Caponiti, he heard one constant complaint: "violators of the two hour limit were invading the neighborhoods," and taking parking spaces needed by the residents.
Sending more enforcement agents into the neighborhoods increased the number of tickets from 130,000 in 1983 to 250,000 last year, Caponiti said, but still did not solve the problem.
The stiffer fines are designed to enhance the impact of each ticket issued, and thus provide more deterrence without adding more ticket writers, city officials said.
Rather than to raise revenue, as critics have occasionally charged, "the philosophy behind the fines is to discourage people from violating" the regulations, said Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the parking bureau, an arm of the Department of Public Works.
When parking at an expired meter cost only $5, she said, many motorists thought it might be cheaper to risk a ticket than to pay a few dollars more to park in a garage. When the fine went to $10, (in 1980) she said, "we found people thinking twice."
"Now that it is $15," she said, "I think they'll be even more cautious."
In the last fiscal year, motor vehicle fines brought the city $22 million in revenues.
More tickets are expected to increase this year's revenues, and the new fines are expected to add from $500,000 to $4 million, Caponiti said.
In addition to answering citizen complaints, Hamilton said increased fines reflect the views of the bureau on the significance of the infraction.
She said the fine for operating a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker was increased to $50 from $25, prompted by both environmental and safety concerns.
Based on the number of abandoned cars that impeded snow removal efforts during the great blizzard of 1983, Hamilton said, the penalty for parking on a snow emergency route was boosted to $50 from the former $15 figure.
New sensitivities to the problems of the handicapped were cited as motivating an increase in the fine for parking in spaces reserved for such persons to $50 from $10.
The fine for parking on a median strip, which officials said had not been specifically prohibited, now costs violators $100.
Officials said trucks parked on the K Street NW median have damaged both trees and pavement. Sidewalks near the convention center also have been damaged, Caponiti said.
Authorities said their action also represents a response to complaints of flagrant double parking on busy downtown streets. The fine for that infraction went up to $25 from $15.
Parking within 20 feet of a bus stop, or within 10 feet of a fire hydrant, goes up to $35, from $15 and $20, respectively.
Parking within five feet of an alley or driveway goes from $10 to $20.
Officials estimated that parking enforcement agents write about a million tickets a year, and the police another 500,000. Only police ticket moving violations.
The new fines were proposed in the Dec. 21 D.C. Register and went into effect with their publication in final form in yesterday's register, an official journal of city government actions.
Although the initial publication asked for public response, Hamilton said she believed fewer than 10 formal comments were received.
Usually, she said, "you get them after the ticket" is issued.