DPW Oversight Testimony

On Friday, February 15, I testified in front of Mary Cheh’s Transportation and the Environment committee on the performance of the Department of Public Works. As a resident of DC, I believe effective parking enforcement is critical for two reasons.

One, many parking violations are a direct threat to the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Oftentimes, like parking in a crosswalk or bike lane, the threat is observable and direct. But often times, especially in our commercial zones, lax enforcement leads to commercial delivery trucks using adjacent bikes lanes or general travel lanes to make deliveries. In these cases, it’s hard to fault the truck drivers when the dedicate commercial space is taken for non-commercial uses.

Second, we live in a relatively dense environment and there’s a unwritten compact we all enter when we move in to be good neighbors. Often times, bad actors take advantage of this compact and lax parking enforcement doesn’t help. All day nonresident parking, parking in alleys, parking in crosswalks, parking too close to corners, failing to register your car in DC, and so many other things violate this compact and it’s up to DPW to enforce them.

Anyway, here’s my testimony:
My name is Corey Holman, ANC commissioner for SMD 6B06. I am here today presenting my own views and not presenting the views of ANC 6B or any other commissioner in 6B.

Before delving into criticism, I was to highlight one positive aspect of the work of DPW. Fort Totten Transfer Station. The employees are a treasure to the city and should be praised for their work. To make the city dump a clean, easy, and safe environment is not an easy task and they manage to do it.

Ok now to the reason I am here: parking enforcement. I will present four major points

1. DPW simply isn’t issuing enough parking tickets
2. DPW isn’t adequately enforcing stopping/standing in bike lanes
3. DPW booting and towing is fundamentally broken
4. Most importantly, DPW’s abdication of parking enforcement is dangerous and antithetical to Vision Zero.

1: DPW Simply isn’t issuing enough tickets.

OCTO has made nine calendar years of parking ticket data available publicly. That dataset commingles DDOT and MPD parking tickets. Throughout this testimony, I will refer to parking tickets per workday, which removes the days where many tickets are issued by MPD and DDOT. I recognize these numbers will not match DPW’s provided numbers, but I can almost assure you the trends and percentages are about right. And if DPW and OCTO want to update their historical datasets, I wouldn’t complain.

Fiscal Year 2018 saw the fewest tickets issued of any fiscal year with data available. 4,934 tickets issued per workday, 17% fewer than any other fiscal year. And before you think this is an aberration, things aren’t better in FY19. The first quarter in FY19 was saw the fewest tickets issued per workday of any available quarter, even though that month included the Vision Zero ticket blitz.

The first chart I included on page 3 shows monthly tickets per workday with a 12-month moving average to remove some of the cyclicality. The moving average shows that in the last 12 months, DPW has issued fewer tickets that any 12-month period with data available. I want you to look at that chart if you can. What is going on here?

2: DPW isn’t adequately enforcing bike lane violations

In FY 2018, DPW was issuing about 2 tickets per bike lane mile per month. Two per mile per month. Let that sink in. In FY 2018, that translates to 2,188. Sure, that sounds like a lot. But that translates into two tickets per bike lane mile per month of workdays. This data is on the second chart on page 4. Chairperson, when I put this testimony together, I paused here for multiple days. You bike. You’ve seen what it’s like. Multiply your bike commutes over a month. Do you only see two cars per lane mile per month during the workweek?

And the not-so-shocking thing is, in chart three when you stop looking at per mile numbers, the total number of bike lane violations is down, despite adding over 35 miles of bike lanes from the beginning of the chart to the end. How does this work? That’s chart 3/page 5.

3: DPW Booting and Towing is Fundamentally Broken

Ok, I presented a lot of data but indulge me for one anecdote. On February 4 I reported to 311 and tweeted at DPW at 8:21 AM of a car in a crosswalk at Kentucky Ave and Barney Circle. That car had $1100 in outstanding tickets and they were old enough for immobilization or impounding. At 12:37 PM, the car was still there. At 1:16 PM, I received notice that my 311 request closed with no violation found. At 5:26 PM, naturally, the car was still there. At 8:43 on the way home from an ANC Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, the car was still there. At 9:42, MPD Commander Morgan Kane of the First District copied me on an email tell Johnny Gaither of DPW the car was still in the crosswalk. Dan Ridge, a neighbor and former ANC Commissioner, noticed the car in the crosswalk around midnight.

Can you imagine receiving an email from a District Commander and ignoring it? Well DPW can.

The next morning, this car was not in the crosswalk so yay. But it was simply moved forward out of the crosswalk (by whom I don’t know). I put in another 311 request and the car was impounded that day. Not for blocking the sidewalk but for outstanding tickets and expired out-of-state registration. How does a car spend the entire day in a crosswalk, even after being reported through 311? How?

Believe it or not, I don’t want to do this! But there are countless other violations I’ve reported to DPW, with the state and license plate to show the car is eligible for boot/tow. In those cases, why doesn’t DPW send a tow truck or boot team straight there, rather than a general enforcement person who then has to request the tow. How can I, a private citizen, be able to better leverage technology like How’s My Driving DC to determine boot and tow eligible vehicles better than DPW dispatch? It’s just preposterous. Why am I entering license plate information into 311 requests if that information isn’t cross referenced against a list of boot/tow eligible vehicles to determine who to send out?

And one more suggestion to improve boot and tow operations. Why isn’t there a booter with ROSA enforcement? In the last week, I’ve requested enforcement three times and tickets were issued overnight. Great, that seems to be working. But two of those three times the car was eligible for booting or towing. I would implore you to ask Director Geldart if booters are included in ROSA enforcement and, if not, why not?

4: DPW’s abdication of their core responsibility is an affront to Vision Zero

Not let’s thread data and anecdote. While it’s easy to brush off my testimony as someone screaming into the wind about rules or revenue, it’s not. Parking enforcement should be a core part of Vision Zero. I’ve attached four pictures on page 6 of cars parked in the 600 block of 1st street NE commercial loading zone all from different days forcing commercial trucks to park in the bike lane. Starting in 2016, four months after the protected bike lane was installed, only one ticket is issued every 2.8 workdays. Do you know what this means? A never-ending parade of commercial vehicles parked on the sidewalk and in the protected bike lane because DPW can’t be bothered to enforce the commercial loading zone. Time after time, cyclists and scooterists are forced into the general travel or onto the sidewalk violators go unpunished. This data is in chart 4/page 7.

Before finishing, I want to point out this testimony along with pictures, charts, Excel workbook and python source code for pulling the data is available on my website, coreyholman.com, and I can provide the code and data to the committee or DPW if requested.

Python Source Code: tickets.py

Excel Workbook: DPW.xlsx

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