End Traffic Enforcement That Puts Revenue Before Rights


“One of the beauties of parking [is] it’s like the [Internal Revenue Service]. If you get a parking ticket, you are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent… That has worked well for us,” a senior city transportation official is quoted as saying in the D.C. Inspector General’s report on parking and automated traffic enforcement tickets.

The official’s attitude about the ticketing of District residents is unacceptable. But it seems to be widespread within our city government. The full report called out a lack of accountability in ticketing at three agencies: the Metropolitan Police Department, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Transportation. Parking tickets, in particular, are an almost constant threat in Georgetown, where paying through the ParkMobile app doesn’t guarantee a ticketless windshield upon return to your vehicle.

We support the enforcement of our city’s traffic and parking laws. Automated red light and speed cameras discourage reckless driving and parking enforcement makes sure locals can do business without the risk of someone taking their spot or blocking traffic. But these laws are increasingly fattening the city’s purse (parking and automated traffic tickets brought in almost $90 million to city coffers in 2013) with little to no oversight.

The report’s release has forced the relevant city departments to make changes already. For example, MPD has changed its policy so that it no longer instructs personnel to approve tickets when the license plate on the vehicle does not match Department of Motor Vehicle records. In addition, the Department of Transportation will be replacing confusing parking signs in D.C. We support these steps but urge the city government to do more.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh has led an effort on the Council to streamline parking practices, holding two hearings on the IG report and proposing a bill that would, among other things, streamline the issuance of parking tickets and create a transportation authority to manage the city’s transit options. We urge the Council to consider not only these options, but also other measures that would bring due process and justice back to the city’s enforcement of traffic and parking laws. The government’s prioritizing of revenue over citizens’ rights needs to come to an end.

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