D.C. mayoral candidates call parking ticket system ‘maddening’

WASHINGTON — Both candidates for D.C. mayor want to overhaul the District’s parking enforcement to end bad tickets, confusing signs and lengthy appeals.

Council members Muriel Bowser and David Catania, who will face off in November, have signed on to support a bill to overhaul the ticketing process in the District.

The proposal would create a new agency, called the Division of Parking Management, to handle parking enforcement, parking policy and ticket adjudication.

Currently, Department of Public Works employees write most tickets; the Department of Transportation manages parking policy and the Department of Motor Vehicles adjudicates all ticket appeals.

“I think we’ve set a system where our personnel thinks it’s better to let the person fix the problem rather than get it right in the first place. And that’s wrong,” says Bowser.

“The enforcer should always have in mind that it’s their job to get it right. The idea that we could say, ‘Oh, well, you can always go and fight it,’ is an unacceptable response to someone who lives, works or visits the District of Columbia,” she says.

Catania has heard the complaints from his constituents as well. He agrees that too many bad tickets are written in the District, and the process to fight them is too cumbersome. He tells WTOP a constituent of his received five parking tickets on 14th Street NW, including some he believes were invented.

“When there are these arbitrary and capricious [tickets] that are written, there is no fair place to go and adjudicate. There’s no one listening. It’s maddening,” says Catania, who adds it makes people unwilling to come into the District to shop, dine or visit.

Bowser described the problems as maddening as well.

We showed Bowser and council member Tommy Wells our recent story on Walt Edwards, who has received two defective tickets in the past year. The latest notice was mailed even though the public works ticket writer posted a picture online that clearly showed the error.

“It’s frustrating. And we’re the nation’s capital. We want to treat people fairly, and we want them to feel like they’ve dealt with an efficient government,” says Wells.

Others were disappointed to read about the Stephen Combs case, in which the ticket writer, his supervisors and a hearing examiner never noticed that the street- sweeping rules Combs supposedly violated actually expired the previous month.

“Whatever we can do to streamline the process and create a system of better accountability, we have to do. I look at this as the beginning of that exercise,” says Catania.

Not everyone is in favor of Bowser and Catania’s ticket reforms. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is worried that lumping all the parking responsibilities into one agency will affect the ability to develop a strategy to manage parking in a way that promotes mass-transit usage.

“Fixing the dysfunction of the city’s parking enforcement process does not require the destruction of transportation planning and policy overall for the city. I’m certain there’s a better way,” says Cheryl Cort, the coalition’s policy director.

“Perhaps all these functions should be brought under DDOT. But create much stronger oversight. Maybe we need a Transportation Commission, like Arlington. Maybe a deputy mayor for transportation would help strengthen oversight. Before we pull apart DDOT, I think we need to assess best practices and make a plan together,” she says.

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