D.C. begins new, stricter parking regulations

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The District Department of Transportation tightened parking regulations for D.C. drivers this month, with extended hours and days, designed to raise more money for the city and encourage parking spot turnovers, a spokesperson for the agency said.

In most areas of the District, parking meter effective hours run from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. According to new restrictions that began in January, all parking meters in the city are now enforced on Saturdays, and parking enforcement hours now extend to 10 p.m. in “premium demand zones,” including Georgetown, Penn Quarter/Chinatown, and the National Mall.

Within these premium demand zones, parking will cost $2 per hour. Normal demand zones will cost $0.75 per hour.

To reflect these changes, crews are working to update more than 100,000 parking regulatory signs and nearly 17,000 meters in the District. Enforcement of the new law only begins after the signage has changed.

Senior Alexander Wells said parking in the District is much more frustrating than parking in other metropolitan areas.

“As a resident of New York City I have been stunned by the difficulties of parking on campus and in D.C. in general. Free spots are hard to come by, and the officers who ticket cars seem to do so with a deliberate insensitivity,” Wells said. “Several times in the last semester I’ve gone to my car and found a ticket that was given within minutes of the meter running out. In other cities and towns there is a five minute grace period, not so in D.C.”

Keeping his car in D.C. so he could travel between his off-campus residence and classes resulted in expensive tickets, and the extended hours made parking harder.

“It is so practical to have a car as a student in this great city. But because the parking is so out of control I can’t even enjoy the advantages of having a car here,” Wells said.

John Lisle, a spokesperson for DDOT, said that the biggest complaint his department has heard has been over the amount of quarters required for public parking.

“This has been from about a year ago when we first launched, is people saying they hate to carry around so many quarters. So that’s a big complaint, it takes eight quarters for an hour, which is an issue we’re trying to address in a couple of ways,” Lisle said.

DDOT is experimenting with multispace meters that accept credit cards and coins, simple space meters that take credit cards and do not require posting a receipt in the car window and looking into pay-by-cell phone technology, Lisle said.

The District issues a large number of tickets – 1,465,394 in the 2008 fiscal year, according to the Department of Public Works’ 2010 Performance Plan. The DPW has projected to issue 1,550,000 tickets in 2010, according to the document.

To compare, New York City issued close to 10 million parking tickets in the 2008 fiscal year, according to a city council press release. Using census data, that number results in a little more than one ticket per resident. D.C., on the other hand, gives out nearly 2.5 tickets per resident, more than double that of New York’s.

The new Saturday meter program was in part mandated by the D.C. Council’s budget for the current fiscal year, but it also seeks to boost potential profits for local businesses by encouraging turnover of spaces. More cars mean more shoppers for the District’s retail and dining establishments, Lisle said.

“One of the goals is to increase the amount of short-term turnover of parking spaces, and that’s a real challenge when areas are very popular,” Lisle said. ” So really, we think one of our goals is to really sort of maximize the efficiency of our parking system so that there are some spaces available for people who are looking for parking. And we believe that will help businesses, because people won’t be frustrated when they come looking for parking.”

Cars that violate the new meter laws will be subject to fines, which range from a $25 fee for an expired/overtime meter to a $100 fee for blocking a bus zone.

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