by March 14, 2013 at 10:30 am 3 Comments


The secret language of parking signs. (Dito Sevilla)

From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT], follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.

If you drive a car in the District of Columbia, eventually you’re going to have to find a place to park it. As a longtime DC resident I have learned when and where I can and cannot park. I know where hidden spaces are located and the best times to park in them.

I have also come to know other less than legal spots, and relish in their convenience to risk of ticket ratio. Expert though I am, there are some streets so mislabeled and jumbled, signs so confusing, redundant and contradictory that the risk of getting ticketed is incalculable.

Usually, my car — like so many others belonging to non-commuters — remains safety parked in the same space for weeks, sometimes months. However now that city street cleaning has resumed I am forced to move it at least twice a week.

Mondays and Tuesdays in my neighborhood mean that between 9:30 and 11:30 am there is no place to park at all. So I often use the time to visit a Target, or make a Costco run, picking up enough toilet paper to last all year. Incidentally, if anyone is making Chicken Picatta, I have several gallons of capers left.

Meanwhile, if I am lucky enough to get back into the city before noon I can find a space close to my house with relative ease. Unless three homes on Q Street are under construction… along with interminable renovations on Church Street… and another home on 17th being moved into, or out of at that time. Parking becomes impossible as residents kindly abuse their “Emergency No-Parking Signs” — but more on that in another article.

I return into the city, do a couple loops around my block and suddenly my understanding of legal, illegal, convenient and possible becomes very muddled. Really, is that what that says? When, where? I read the signs as if I have never been to Washington.

I try to make sense of the alien math used to limit times and distances from curbs, intersections and crosswalks. Everywhere I look another regulation discourages the act of parking altogether. It’s as if the city itself wants me to remain in perpetual motion.

“No Parking,” that’s clear enough, but why is the red arrow pointing directly at a green arrow advertising “2-Hour Parking, Zone 2 Residents Exempt.” Does that mean that if I live in Zone 2 I can park there?  Doubtful. I’ll just keep circling.

It is then that I realize: no two streets are labeled the same; it’s a complete mess. I took pictures, of course, because who could believe me. The president lives but nine blocks away, and we can’t agree on where and when we can and cannot park? Really? I’m well acquainted with the District’s third-world mentality in all things regulatory, but I think that even they could draft parking guidelines that exhibit a modicum of equanimity to all drivers.

So I ask, readers, am I wrong? Is your street clearly labeled? Has every ticket you’ve received been fair? Did it make sense to you? Was that meter really expired? Was the posted sign you ignored really “clearly posted?”

I have included some of my photographic findings (above), and rather than try to explain them, I will let you decide what they each have or do not have in common. In a city where inches matter, who rules?

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