Cars on St. Paul St. attract tickets, tow trucks City had received commuter complaints about blocked lanes

January 18, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews and Joe Mathews | Robert Guy Matthews and Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

Drivers who dared to park their cars along St. Paul Street on Tuesday night awoke yesterday to an early-morning caravan of tow trucks and enforcement agents ticketing and hauling away dozens of automobiles along the snow emergency route.

Since last week's blizzard, irate commuters have called the Department of Public Works to complain that the parked cars were blocking lanes on one of the main southbound arteries through the city.

The cars, unable to get close to the curb because of plowed snow extending several feet into the street, narrowed parts of St. Paul Street and northbound Calvert Street a block east from three lanes to one.

George G. Balog, director of public works, said yesterday that the city has been doing the best it can to respond to a storm of historic proportions.

After the commuters' complaints and an inquiry by The Sun Tuesday, four of the city's 15 tow trucks were dispatched to St. Paul Street yesterday and worked their way south. By 6 p.m., they had reached the 1200 block.

Fifteen cars were towed, Mr. Balog said, and 25 were moved from the left side of the street to the right. Seven parking agents patrolled, and two snowplows helped clear snow from spaces where cars were towed. Some of the agents knocked on doors and asked residents to move their cars themselves, he said.

"Every day, we're seeing improvement," said Mr. Balog, adding that the city has towed 852 cars since the storm hit. But many people have been parking cars in areas even after the tow trucks have come through, he said.

"They have no fear," he said of those drivers. "This is what we've been fighting."

As the tow trucks and parking agents worked their way down the street, onlookers and passers-by in cars strained to see what was going on.

Elaine Johnson said she was startled by the commotion as she slept in her apartment in the 2700 block of St. Paul Street. When she looked out her window, she saw the flashing lights from the tow trucks. Her 1982 gray Ford Mustang was gone.

"I should have known that my luck was going to run out," Ms. Johnson said. "To tell you the truth, my biggest worry was that some idiot was going to hit it."

Car alarms sounded as the tow truck drivers hooked cars up and dragged them out of the snow. Most of the cars were hauled away without much protest from their owners, mostly because few of the owners were around to see what was happening.

Janice Stickney tried to persuade a parking enforcement agent not to tow her 1982 Nissan Sentra.

"Please, please. I don't have the money to get this car out," Ms. Stickney pleaded.

The agent gave Ms. Stickney a smile, but no reprieve. Her car was hauled away.

"This is wrong, wrong, wrong," Ms. Stickney said. "Where was I supposed to park for the past week?"

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