Parking ticket purgatory Procrastination: The fees seem to multiply when you're not prompt about settling the bill at City Hall. It's even worse for two tardy tickets.

Intrepid Commuter

November 17, 1997

IT'S SAID the worst job on earth is meter maid.

But your Intrepid One recently discovered something worse in the dirty deed department: paying for those tickets.

Call it double jeopardy -- or even triple or quadruple jeopardy -- if pTC you happen to slip up, forget to shell out $20 for the violation and, heaven forbid, cause a flag to rise over your state Motor Vehicle Administration registration.

That's when bureaucrats start laughing -- all the way to the bank.

Such human error happened to your wheelster last month, dear drivers, and the memory remains fresh and painful.

Approaching City Hall to correct two tardy $20 tickets, the spirit of mea culpa vanished at the payment window. The teller added a $25 "flagging" fee to release Intrepid's state registration from the city's computer. An additional $20 "release" fee -- which goes to the Transportation Trust Fund -- was charged by the MVA, making expunction the cost of a fancy lunch at the Polo Grill.

Then it was fee time again -- this time a $5 debit fee to transfer cash from the bank to the coffers of the city. Even that was cheaper than using a credit card, which has a fee of $8.

Add this to $16 in late fees for the parking fines, and we're into megabucks.

Why, pray tell, do these fees exist? Intrepid set out to learn last week.

Beverly Crosby, supervisor of the city's parking fine collection department, said revenues from flagging fees go into the city's "parking enterprise fund," which pays for on-street and off-street parking, meter maintenance and other expenses.

As for the $5 ATM debit fee, Beth Wexler of the city's treasury division said a private vendor, Vital Check, provides the city with a check-writing machine in return for exclusive rights to offer a bank debit option for $5 per customer. Wexler said the debit rights were not competitively bid, but the city is seeking a cheaper alternative for the service.

At the state level, MVA spokesman James P. Lang said the "release" fee is an administrative cost posed by the agency to help fund road resurfacing and to repair potholes -- a long way from simply feeding a parking meter.

Such fees are nothing but gravy for bureaucratic agencies that always claim to be cash-starved. They tend to pile up in certain circumstances -- such as your Intrepid One's costly blunder -- and then it seems that fee-itis has reached critical mass.

So the moral of this story is: Always bring quarters -- or prepare to bury your checkbook.

All aboard for points west

Could Maryland Rail Commuter service soon extend to Western Maryland and West Virginia?

Morgan County and Bath, W.Va., and Hancock hope to bring the Baltimore and Washington trains farther west and plan to discuss possibilities Dec. 4 in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. After that, a proposal to the Mass Transit Administration to extend service is expected to take shape.

Preliminary plans would extend MARC's Brunswick line, which ends in Martinsburg, W.Va., another 18 miles. The extension would put commuter rail service within easy reach of Hancock and Berkeley Springs.

MARC picks up about 150 people a day in Martinsburg, Operations Manager Kathy Waters said.

HOV lanes considered for part of U.S. 50

State Highway Administration officials are pondering whether to add a lane on U.S. 50 for cars carrying more than one person to encourage car pooling and ease traffic.

The high occupancy vehicle lanes, to be placed on both sides of the highway in Prince George's County between U.S. 301 and the Capital Beltway going west and from Route 410 to U.S. 301 heading east, would accommodate thousands of daily commuters, most from Anne Arundel County.

The HOV lanes require a minimum number of passengers in a car. Motorists can be fined $50 if they use the lanes without carrying the minimum number of passengers.

Shortcuts

SHA officials say they plan to resurface the southbound ramp of Ritchie Highway to U.S. 50 and Route 450 in Anne Arundel County. Parts of the 400-foot ramp will be closed during off-peak traffic hours on weekdays during the $285,000 project. MVA officials last week responded to a misleading e-mail on the Internet that sparked hundreds of calls to the agency's customer phone lines regarding fees for copies of personal driving records. Agency spokesman Lang set the record straight in a news release that outlined a $5 fee for each copy. Drivers wishing to close their records to the public may do so at no charge.

Keep in touch

You can mail, send by fax or call in questions or comments for the Intrepid Commuter. Here's how:

Mail letters -- The Sun, 1300 Bellona Ave., Lutherville 21093.

Fax line -- 410-494-2916.

Call Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service, at 410-783-1800, Ext. 4305. From Anne Arundel County, dial 410-268-7736.

Pub Date: 11/17/97

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