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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- An estimated 1.5 million tourists and locals will be in the metro area for the 2014 National Cherry Blossom Festival. AAA Mid-Atlantic warns that free parking is limited during the event and an estimated 144,000-plus parking citations will be issued during the 24-day festival.

AAA Mid-Atlantic warns parking tickets is a serious issue during the "Pink Event." Free parking is limited during the event. According to the AAA, this is the busiest and most profitable time for the District of Columbia's Parking Enforcement Administration.

An estimated of 144,000-plus parking tickets will be issued if last year's rate of 6,000 parking tickets a day holds true, AAA said.

During last year's festival, the District issued 155,636 parking tickets during the 26-day event, according to information from a FOIA request made by the auto club. This year's event is two days shorter than last year's. The festival is for three weeks and four weekends until April 13. The Park Police and D.C. Traffic Control Officers are directing traffic around the event and will be ticketing people every day of the week.

"It's outrageous that this is how the city government chooses to welcome its visitors to the nation's capital during this festival, but the facts speak for themselves," Mahlon G. (Lon) Anderson said, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs. "We are issuing an urgent motorist alert: if you drive a vehicle to this city, know that an army of ticket writers is lying in wait for you, and make sure you pay strict attention to the parking rules, time on the meters, and rush hour restrictions. A moment of vigilance could help you keep a lot more of your hard-earned cash in your wallets and pocket books and away from the city's greedy coffers."

Even though peak bloom is not expected to happen between April 8-12, officers will be active throughout the entire event. AAA warns drivers to avoid driving in the city if you do plan on attending the event. It is quite difficult to find parking in the area of the festival.

The auto club said the District has a reputation for its aggressive ticketing during the Cherry Blossom season.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival brings in as much as $160 million annually in total economic impact. Packed metros, tour buses and metro buses are expected during the event, particularly when the weather is nice.

Metro ridership increases by more than 15 percent during Cherry Blossom season, the transit gurus say. "Weekend ridership can double to near-weekday levels if the weather is nice," Metro says.

"Drivers are likely to encounter congestion, delays, temporary closures, and temporary one-way streets related to Cherry Blossom Festival activities," the National Park Service advises. "Little free or nearby paid parking is available. Free public parking is available on Ohio Drive SW, 14th Street, and Constitution Avenue. Garage parking is available north of the White House, however this is a 20 to 30 minute brisk walk to the Tidal Basin area."

The AAA advises people who want to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival to consider the following steps:

· Taking a long walk along the Tidal Basin. Wear comfortable shoes and a windbreaker.

· Biking it. (Capital Bikeshare has multiple stations near the Tidal Basin and Festival events).

· Riding the Rails via Metro. The transit agency warns "Trains and stations are always more crowded during Cherry Blossom season. Visitors are encouraged to travel during non-rush hour times, if possible, and try to avoid traveling at the height of the afternoon peak period, from 4 to 6 p.m."

· Getting "On The Bus, Gus." There are 52 bus stop routes within a half-mile of the Tidal Basin.

· Hitching a ride on the shuttle with a number of stops between Hains Point and Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It's $1 a person for each boarding and runs daily from 10 AM to 7 PM.

· Looking for handicapped parking? It is designated "along West Basin Drive at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Additional handicapped parking is available along southbound Ohio Drive on the Washington Boundary Channel side of Hains Point, north of the intersection with Buckeye Drive."

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