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WTOP Exclusive: New D.C. visitor parking passes being mailed out to residents

Tuesday - 10/15/2013, 1:53am  ET

WASHINGTON - Nearly a month after the D.C. City Council passed an emergency law to extend old visitor parking passes until the end of the year, WTOP has learned the D.C. Department of Transportation is now mailing out new passes to D.C. residents.

DDOT began mailing out the new passes late last week and plan to reach out to residents and the public in a formal announcement Tuesday, WTOP has learned.

The Visi tor Parking Passes allow D.C. guests from any state, including Virginia and Maryland, to park in a residential parking zone for more than two hours without receiving a ticket. These passes typically are valid from Oct. 1-Sept. 30, but the D.C. City Council had to pass an emergency bill to extend the expiration of the 2012-2013 passes until Dec. 31 after residents complained about not getting their new passes in time.

D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Muriel Bowser sponsored the bill and criticized DDOT for acting too slowly to implement changes to the visitor parking program.

"That confusion is largely due to DDOT's failure to announce the exact dimensions of the program and how it would be implemented," Cheh wrote in an email to her constituents last month.

"Clearly, more time is needed to thoroughly craft any changes to the policy and roll them out with an effective communications campaign."

The new 2013-2014 passes do not mean the old 2012-2013 passes will become invalid. Both will remain valid until the end of the year, causing some people to worry it'll lead to confusion or abuse.

"Now there's going to be two valid passes. And if they're (ticket writers) not up-to-date on whatever the most current information is, they're going to ticket people if they have the purple pass in the window, even though it's good until the end of the year. And maybe even whatever color comes next. I'm sure there is going to be a rash of tickets that include valid passes that are not the color the ticket writer thought they should be," says D.C. resident Audrey Griffin.

Montgomery County resident Brenda Ruby, who frequently uses the visitor parking pass to visit her boyfriend in D.C., is happy to hear about the new passes, but agrees with Griffin's concerns.

"I think (DDOT) wanted to avoid any abuse of the system and I think they've now put themselves in a position where it's ripe for the happening. I was concerned with having the expired visitor pass. I thought to myself, 'Yeah right that I'm not going to get a ticket before Dec. 31 using this.' There's no way every person who writes tickets knows about this policy," she says.

DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders doesn't believe there will be abuse or confusion.

"I don't think there will be any problems because we've been communicating with the citizens all along through various social networks and listservs and explaining what's going to happen next. But people should know the old passes will be good until the end of the year," he says.

But WTOP has learned of one ticket issued on Oct. 2 to a driver for an expired visitor parking pass. The ticket writer even notes in the comment section of the citation, "DDOT zone permit exp. 9/30/13." Ruby and Griffin aren't surprised to hear about this and believe it's not the only erroneous ticket issued, although Sanders is hopeful that such ticket is an isolated error.

"You've got to believe that some people will take advantage of the situation of the windfall of having two visitor parking passes," says Ruby.

"As someone who uses the visitor parking permits, I'm glad that I'll be able to use one that isn't expired very soon. But it is confusing as to why DDOT said it would redo the system, then not be ready, and then issue new passes in early October," she says.

"I'm not sure why DDOT issued these new passes two weeks later. It doesn't make sense to me. I would have waiting until November or December to send out the new passes, wait until these old passes were closer to their expiration date before sending anything out," says Griffin.

But Sanders tells WTOP it made sense to mail out the new passes now, rather than wait.

"We were ready to go and that's why we're sending them out. We were actually ready to go in September. So I think everything will be fine," he says.

D.C. residents should be getting the new 2013-2014 passes throughout the next month.

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