Reckless D.C. Mayor Endangers Streets of Nation’s Capital

June 7, 2009
Reckless Mayor Caught on Camera

Click to enlarge the "evidence" provided by ATS

Last month, the reckless mayor of the District of Columbia hurtled down East Capitol Street in North East Washington at the breakneck speed of 43 MPH — a full 13 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit. Fortunately, scofflaw Adrian M. Fenty’s vehicular rampage was stopped dead in its tracks two weeks and four days later when a ticket was finally dropped in the U.S. mail.

American Traffic Systems (ATS) had issued the demand for the immediate payment of $50 to the “DC DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS,” the registered owner of the tiny taxpayer-funded Smart car. As one can see from the photographs taken by the ATS machine, Mayor Fenty was driving without due care and attention by straddling a second lane without any apparent use of a turn signal — just the sort of thing for which ATS plans to begin issuing tickets as part of the public-private partnership to boost revenue with “secondary violations.”

Now, we don’t actually think Fenty’s driving in this case endangered anyone. Driving 43 MPH on a six-lane boulevard on a clear day in light traffic is what the safe and reasonable majority of drivers do. By underposting speed limits and criminalizing ordinary conduct, the District has been able to profit from more than 3,732,234 photo tickets issued since 1999 worth about $280 million. The difference in this particular case is that Fenty is a hypocrite. The photographic money machine can only keep flashing if mayors like Fenty demonize motorists who are not endangering anyone. The other difference is that when we do that, we get the ticket and we have to pay it.

Attention Maryland High School Students: This is the mayor's plate

Attention Maryland High School Students: This is the mayor's plate

In Fenty’s case, the cost of the car, the gas, and the tickets are all paid by the taxpayer. In fact, you would never have known about this incident had the Washington City Paper not known that the mayor and his personal assistant frequently drive the black and gray Smart car with license plate CV-6154. Reporter Mike DeBonis ran that plate through the online database and caught the May 11 incident before it was erased from the system.

Now that Fenty has been caught, a city spokesman told the City Paper, “He’ll pay the ticket.”

What do you want to bet that would be the first time he’s ever paid with his own money? Next time, he’ll probably just take the motorcade.


Washington, DC Declares War on Drivers

March 24, 2009
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty

Faced with a massive budget deficit, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is dialing American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for help. Need cash? ATS will set up a massive ticketing operation that can be adjusted to fit the needs of any big-spending bureaucrat. In Fenty’s case, the motorist pain threshold will be set to maximum. Check out what he’s proposing:

  • Mobile red light cameras to create deadly traps for drivers just like in New Carrollton, MD. These portable scameras can be set up anywhere, meaning drivers won’t be able to avoid dangerous red light camera intersections any more. This will cause surprise, panic stops and more rear-end collisions.
  • Turn red light cameras into speed cameras. This gives a speeding ticket to a driver who needs to accelerate to make it through Fenty’s intersections that have been set with dangerously short yellow times. The District has had “speed on green” in its enforcement contract for several years, but now is the time to cash in.
  • Speed cameras in every tunnel using laser instead of radar.
  • Gridlock enforcement” which means drivers will get a photo ticket if they are trapped in an intersection during heavy traffic.
  • Overweight vehicle tickets. A new ATS scamera will guess your weight as you drive past. If the machine thinks your vehicle is too heavy, you get a ticket in the mail. In other words, don’t have that extra donut before driving to work.
  • Insurance tickets. According to Fenty’s budget proposal, “Other new initiatives include… making use of real-time access to insurance.” That means you’ll get a hefty scamera ticket if the D.C. insurance database thinks you’re late on your insurance payment. D.C. isn’t exactly well known for the accuracy of its computerized information services. But don’t worry, you’re guilty until proven innocent with scamera tickets. Just pay and everything will be ok.

See page 97 of the Budget Executive Summary (large PDF).

Combine the above with D.C.’s plan to use federal “stimulus” dollars to take away lanes of traffic from automobiles so the city can run a money-wasting trolley boondoggle, and it’s clear that D.C. has declared war on the motorist.

If you’re willing to join us in fighting back, let us know.

Parking Ticket Scameras Hit DC on March 30

March 7, 2009
D.C. street sweeper photo by kalavinka

D.C. street sweeper photo by kalavinka

The days of returning to your car and finding a ticket on the windshield could be coming to an end. The new meter maid in town is the street sweeper and the tickets will now just show up in the mail a few weeks after your “crime.” According to the D.C. Department of Public Works:

daytime mechanical street sweeping will resume in scheduled, signed residential neighborhoods on Monday, March 23, 2009. Alternate-side parking restrictions in these areas will go into effect as well. Parking tickets, which carry a $30 fine, will be issued, beginning March 30, to vehicles parked during street sweeping hours in areas posted with “No Parking/Street Cleaning” signs.

Beginning March 30, parked cars also may be towed to allow the sweepers access to the curbside. Generally, parking is prohibited for two hours while sweeping is underway.

Each of those street sweepers, which do very little to actually clean D.C.’s filthy streets, is now equipped with a camera designed to generate at least $2 million in revenue so Mayor Fenty and his cronies can continue their reckless spending spree. Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) will be in charge of the program to ensure it generates the maximum revenue possible.

If you don’t get the ticket in the mail, don’t worry.  D.C. is also using its cameras to conveniently boot or tow your vehicle so that you have the opportunity to pay hundreds in towing fees on top of that $30 fine.

The meter maids haven’t been fired yet and will keep issuing tickets. But it’s only a matter of time before they’re replaced with cameras that communicate wirelessly with the new multi-space electronic parking meters. Because it’s all about safety, right?

DC Admits Purpose of Speed Cameras: Punish Drivers

February 23, 2009

gabeklein_bioThe are two things about the politicians that run the city of Washington, D.C. that you can count on. First, as a one-party town, operatives aren’t used to hiding what they really think. Sometimes that means they can be quite honest about their intentions. Former Mayor Tony Williams, for example, admitted speed cameras were all about revenue. Now District Deparment of Transportation Director Gabe Klein has revealed a new motivation: speed cameras are installed to force drivers to give up their cars. He said as much in this interview with WTOP radio:

“I personally am a fan of keeping cars off the roads and limiting people’s options,” Klein said. “Whether it is raising gas taxes, or whether you look at things like tolls or speed cameras to get people to either ride together or take transit, I think those are positive things overall.”

So when you live in the city and get constantly hit by speed camera tickets on top of the city bureaucracy and hassle of car ownership here, you might be inclined to give up and take public transportation. Even so, there are occasions when it would be nice to make a quick car rental to get around town on short notice.  You know, a company like ZipCar offers that service.

What was Gabe Klein before taking over the top job at DDOT? He was the regional vice president for ZipCar responsible for bringing the company’s service to the District. The second thing you can count on about D.C. politicians? Self-dealing.

D.C. Begins Towing Over Photo Tickets

February 18, 2009

dcplateThe D.C. Department of Public Works yesterday announced a plan to grab more cash from Maryland and Virginia residents. In the good old days, Washington had no enforcement mechanism for red light camera and speed camera tickets issued to outsiders  (i.e. the commuter tax). If a Virginia or Maryland resident tore up a scamera citation, all Mayor Fenty and Marion Barry could do was stomp their feet and ask ATS to send you another nasty letter. As a result, over twelve thousand people were smart enough not to pay their ticket. I’ll bet most are out-of-state. The new booting plan means D.C. bureaucrats will be able to spend not just the revenue from fine payments, but it will grab the extra “boot removal fee” as well.

This changes the game significantly. If you get a ticket, do NOT park on the street because D.C. uses an SUV equipped with a license plate reader (known as ANPR or ALPR) that automatically scans every plate it passes to locate a potential booting target. You will eventually be found, because the only efficient thing about the District is the meter maid function (run by ACS). Note that the license plate scanner also records your location for future use by the police, even if you don’t have any tickets or you are not a terrorist. Just in case.

It’s bad enough that the vast majority of D.C.’s scamera tickets go to Virginians and Marylanders. It’s simply intolerable that most will now actually have to pay them. When the District talks about “Taxation Without Representation” it is, of course, referring to the photo enforcement program.

Full text of the DPW press release after the jump.
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