City issued $7,000 in parking fines during Sandy driving ban

As the storm called Sandy blew through Baltimore two weeks ago, an 18-hour driving ban imposed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake kept city roads mostly clear for emergency workers — and for parking enforcement officers, judging by the nearly $7,000 in tickets issued in that span.

Among the 169 tickets were 19 for parking in a passenger loading zone, 10 for obstructing or impeding pedestrians, eight for not having a residential parking permit, five for parking at a bus stop or transit zone and two for ignoring street-cleaning restrictions, city records show.

The ticket volume worked out to roughly a quarter the number of parking tickets written during the comparable 18-hour period a week earlier, according to the city’s website.

Some residents complained it was unfair to ticket cars given how hard it was to find suitable parking before the storm, particularly in crowded neighborhoods.

But a Rawlings-Blake spokesman said “illegal parking is illegal parking” and noted that the city had offered free parking in garages near flood-prone areas.

The city kept its promise to issue no tickets for expired meters, because drivers who parked before the ban couldn’t legally move their cars between Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. and noon the next day.

Officials had also said the only citations issued on the morning of Oct. 30 were for violations “that dealt with public safety.”

Except for one abandoned vehicle ticket, all 169 were issued that morning after 7 a.m. The largest number, 62, went for parking in no-stopping, non-tow-away areas. (Eleven others were written for parking in tow-away zones.) The second-highest total was for expired tags, with 29 citations.

Among those angered by a ticket was Sajendra Nithiananthan, a biomedical engineering doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University who said he received a ticket the morning of Oct. 30 after parking in a legal spot the day before. Parking only became prohibited in the spot, a loading area for a local school, after the city’s driving restrictions took effect, he said.

“I would have had to ignore the instructions not to travel in order to move the car,” he told The Sun at the time.

Nithiananthan’s Honda was one of three vehicles given $32 citations for parking in the passenger loading zone in the 700 block of Park Avenue. Minutes later, five other vehicles were ticketed for the same kind of violation in the 800 block.

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