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Woman issued erroneous D.C. ticket for valid visitor parking pass

Wednesday - 10/16/2013, 7:27am  ET

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Audrey Griffin got a ticket on her rental car for an expired visitor parking pass despite the recent law validating its expiration date. (Courtesy Audrey Griffin)

WASHINGTON - While D.C. residents and visitors from Maryland and Virginia try to understand the latest twists in the District's visitor parking program, there still may be confusion about the new rules among city employees.

Visitor parking passes allow non-D.C. residents to park in certain residential zones for more than two hours while visiting a D.C. resident.

As WTOP reported last month, the D.C. Council passed an emergency law allowing passes that expired on Sept. 30 to remain valid until Dec. 31.

The move came because worried constituents weren't receiving their new passes in time, as the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) tries to upgrade the system. And while the council and DDOT have been clear the passes for 2012-2013 are valid, they still have a September expiration date listed on them.

"I thought to myself, 'Yeah right, I'm not going to get a ticket before Dec. 31.' There's no way that every person who writes tickets knows about this policy," says Brenda Ruby, who frequently uses a visitor parking pass when she travels from Montgomery County to D.C. to visit her boyfriend.

WTOP has learned about a ticket issued for an expired visitor parking pass on Oct. 2. D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) parking enforcement officer Charlene Gaskin wrote the ticket at 10:42 a.m. in the 1300 block of Rittenhouse Street NW for "DDOT Zone Permit Exp. 9/30/13."

Audrey Griffin has been following the parking pass saga in the news, so she knew the ticket she received was illegally written.

"I called my husband and a string of spectacular words later finished with, 'I have a valid parking pass,' Griffin says. "Of course I was very angry about it, I didn't want a parking ticket."

"It's stupid because it literally says DDOT permit expired 9/30 and I got the ticket on 10/2 even though they (DDOT) already sent out the email saying they're good until the end of the year," she says. "There's no excuse. If you're going to write the ticket, you better know the law that you're writing it for."

Griffin reached out to some neighbors over a local Listserv and learned about WTOP Ticketbuster. She contacted WTOP, and WTOP contacted DPW, DDOT and Councilwomen Mary Cheh and Muriel Bowser.

Cheh, D-Ward 3, and Bowser, D-Ward 4, co-sponsored the emergency legislation last month.

"This was a case of human error. All parking officers were advised of the extended expiration date, but this officer forgot. The ticket will be voided," says DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant.

Grant tells WTOP that DPW parking enforcement officers, including Gaskin, were all informed about the law during roll call shortly after the council passed the measure. Grant's boss went a step further in an email to Cheh, WTOP, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy and DMV Director Lucinda Babers.

"We are voiding this ticket. We will continue to remind employees that the expiration date has been extended to Dec 31, 2013. I apologize for the inconvenience," DPW Director William O. Howland wrote.

Grant says DPW parking supervisors will remind ticket writers again about the extension during roll call this week. Bellamy tells WTOP that DDOT officers will continue to be reminded about it as well. DPW writes about 85 percent of the tickets in the District and DDOT writes most of the remainder.

Cheh agrees the ticket appeared to stem from human error, but wants to make sure DPW, DDOT and DMV are all on the same page regarding the extension.

"Clearly (the ticket writer) was not well-informed as to what was going on with parking passes because if she had been well-informed, she wouldn't have given me a ticket," says Griffin.

The question that appears to have no firm answer is whether Griffin is alone or if there are other erroneous tickets out there for expired visitor parking passes.

"I'm sure there are others. I don't know anyone on my block. But I'm sure, based on what I've heard on the Listserv, I'm not the only one," Griffin says. "I know they have to bank on people only wanting to just be done with it and move on, not reading the ticket and just paying."

Grant tells WTOP she firmly believes this is an isolated error and there aren't others out there. But when WTOP asked the DMV to provide precise figures on the issue, it said that information was unavailable.

"Since the ticket violation is residential parking, there is no way for the DMV to run a report related to how many tickets, related to expired DDOT visitor parking passes, have been issued after Sept. 30, 2013," Babers says.

"There is no separate (code) that isolates VPP tickets, which means there is no way to get an accurate count of tickets issued for an expired VPP without reviewing every ticket issued for residential parking violations," says Grant.

Babers and Grant are referring to the code associated with this ticket: P003. It's a catch-all for all residential parking violations, including having an expired DDOT visitor parking pass.

Ticket writers are not required to add details and there are no subcategories, making it impossible to separate the different types of residential parking tickets.

Nonetheless, Griffin is pleased she came to WTOP Ticketbuster and that her ticket is now dismissed.

"Your neighbors are your best resource. That's how I found out about you, about WTOP Ticketbuster, and you helped us through this, which is awesome.

"I am a big fan of WTOP," she says.

DDOT is in the process of mailing out new visitor parking passes for 2013-2014. As WTOP reported Tuesday, most affected D.C. residents should receive them in the next month.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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