WASHINGTON (AP) — Residents of some District of Columbia neighborhoods will soon be able to apply for free visitor parking passes.

The Washington Post reports  that the surprise announcement last week from D.C. transportation officials is raising concerns about abuses.

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Under a pilot project, the transportation department mailed free passes to all households in certain neighborhoods, but the new program will allow any household in an area where paid permits are required to request a free visitor pass. Passes won’t be sent unless they are requested.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh was pleased that passes are no longer being mailed en masse to residents, but said she’s concerned that free passes could easily be misused. Cheh said she recently asked the transportation director to delay the expansion of free passes.

“We were supposed to have an overarching, comprehensive plan about parking in general, of which the visitor parking passes were supposed to be a part,” Cheh said. “The whole thing was supposed to be thought through. That has not happened.”

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The Coalition for Smarter Growth Policy Director Cheryl Cort was disappointed by the new approach. Her group pushed for higher prices for resident parking permits and supported a paid coupon system for visitor parking.

“In areas that already have a lot of competition for curb space, it’s probably not going to help sort that out,” said Cort. “It’s probably only going to add to the competition. It’s not going to make many people happier.”

The new passes will be valid from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2014, and are valid within the passholder’s neighborhood. More details about the application process will be released in coming weeks, according to the department.

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