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Exclusive: Meter hours won’t be extended in D.C. until mid-2016

The D.C. Council passed a budget this summer that called for meters hours to be extended until midnight in premium parking zones, but the meter changes won't go into effect until 2016. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

WASHINGTON — Meter hours in certain parts of D.C. were due to be extended an extra two hours starting Thursday, but WTOP has learned the rollout will be delayed until 2016.

The D.C. Council passed a budget this summer that called for meters hours to be extended until midnight in premium parking zones. These are zones where demand is heavy such as downtown, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, U Street and Chinatown, among others.

The new budget takes effect when the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2015. But the D.C. Department of Transportation tells WTOP that the work may not be completed until the end of June 2016.

WTOP has learned that the DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo met with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Councilman Jack Evans late Tuesday to explain that the agency was not ready to implement the new parking hours on Oct. 1.

Dormsjo told them the main issue had to do with what was the intent of lawmakers. Are all meters in the affected areas supposed to be extended until midnight? And did Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt use faulty information when calculating how much revenue the new hours would bring into the city coffers?

“The administration came to us and questioned whether this would also involve meters that end at 6:30 p.m.? That was not our intent. The council’s intent was clear. We are extending the hours from 10 p.m. to midnight. We’re not affecting the parking meters that end at 6:30 p.m.,” says Mendelson.

Dormsjo pointed out that the zones affected have some meters that end at 6:30 p.m. and others that end at 10 p.m. For example, downtown D.C. meters almost all end at 10 p.m., whereas some meters in the popular shopping districts end at 6:30 p.m.

“As Director Dormsjo told us, they’re getting ready to go out and change the signs with the new stickers on them. So they wanted to get it right, to figure out what do they really mean. That’s why I’m really glad he came to us and let us know before he went out and did something without knowing the answer,” says Evans.

Each day the District does not extend the hours after Thursday costs the city money. But both lawmakers point out that DeWitt only budgeted for an extra $3 million in revenue for this fiscal year from the extended parking hours and $10 million in future years. And while it’s unclear whether those numbers might have to be tweaked because of this new information, the projections anticipated a phased-in approach that would not take effect on day one.

“Yes, it won’t be ready on Oct. 1 and it will probably happen over the course of a few months. I would hope it will be done before the end of the year,” says Evans.

But DDOT admits that timeline is not realistic.

“DDOT’s implementation plan includes time to adequately notify the public and other stakeholders of the coming changes, install new signage, program the meters and add decals in the Premium Demand Zone areas affected by the legislation,” writes DDOT spokesman Terry Owens in a statement to WTOP.

Owens further clarified that the extended meter hours will not be implemented until the “last third” of the fiscal year.

However, changes are coming to the fines drivers will pay for certain tickets in D.C., starting Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Parking at an expired meter will go from $25 to $30. Illegally parking in a residential permit zone will go from a $30 to $35 fine.

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