DPW Issuing Fewer Tickets in Ward 6

The Unwritten Rules That Drive Uneven Parking Enforcement

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A car is parked in Southwest, directly beneath a sign reading ‘No Parking Anytime.” Photo: A. Lightman

Michele is a Hill East resident. She has been trying to get parking enforcement on her block for nearly a year. Particular car owners treat the two spots near the end of the block as “essentially a private parking spot. They block visibility and make an already dangerous, tight, low-visibility intersection much more difficult to navigate.”

She has reported the cars to the Department of Public Works (DPW) which enforces District parking regulations through the 311 app, to no avail.

“It’s extremely frustrating as someone who tries to be a considerate parker and who always finds a legal spot for my car, even if it’s not as close or convenient as I’d like,” she said.

Michele’s is only one example of numerous complaints from Ward 6 residents about a lack of parking enforcement in their neighborhoods. Many say the regulations designed to ensure visibility at intersections, prevent blockages of roadways and to create parking for residents near their homes are not enforced.

DPW Director Christopher J. Shorter said that residents are encouraged to call 311 to request enforcement. “Once a request has been made, we relay the information to our officers in the area. We respond to (all) 311 service requests within 24 hours, but do our best to address calls within two hours.”

Shorter said that for the two years between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017 there were 17,487 calls to 311 related to parking enforcement in Ward 6. He did not specify how many were responded to by DPW.

Parking citations written in 2016, 2017 and for the year up to May 30, 2018 by ANC. Data: opendata.dc.gov Graph: C. Holman.

Open Data
Data provided by the District government on the opendata.dc.gov website and processed by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B Transportation Committee Resident Member Corey Holman indicates that parking enforcement in Ward 6 has fluctuated over the last three years, even as total District enforcement numbers have remained consistent. In 2016, 478,959 tickets were written for parking violations in Ward 6; in 2017, that number decreased to 286,048. As of the end of May 2018, 115,405 tickets had been written, an average of about on pace for 276,973 in 2018.

This even as District-wide numbers for the two previous fiscal years held steady at about 1.3 million citations; 1,387,784 were written in 2016, and 1,309,183 in 2017 according to numbers provided in the DPW Oversight Report.

In response to a request for comment, Director Shorter said that the number of tickets written for different types of infractions “fluctuates each year depending on a host of reasons. The increased use of ride-sharing services, for example, has undoubtedly had an impact.”

The perception that DPW is not steadily enforcing parking regulations throughout Ward 6 has many residents wondering why the city created them in the first place.

‘Come Every Four Hours’
The Residential Parking Permit (RPP) program was initiated in DC in April 1977, in response to the problem of commuter vehicles parked in residential neighborhoods. According to a 1978 story in the Washington Star, by August 1978, nearly 14 percent of parking spaces in the District were included in the program.

The program requires a resident to purchase a $35 parking permit at the time a vehicle is registered, which allows the vehicle to be parked anywhere in the ward in which they live.

But residents say the rules are poorly enforced. From January 2016 to May 2018 the bulk of RPP citations were issued west of Sixth Street SE and in the area around Eastern Market. 73 blocks in the District have had one RPP-related citation issued in the past two years and five months.

Hill East resident and former ANC 6B10 Commissioner Francis Campbell says that additional enforcement is necessary. He says when he drove out of his parking spot one morning at 7 a.m. it was immediately occupied by a panel truck that he suspects belonged to a company doing work in the area. At 1 p.m., the vehicle was still there, unticketed. Parking limits are for two hours for those without residential permits.

Campbell has emailed with the Department of Public Works (DPW) which enforces parking about the issue. “Even with RPP, we have to call 311 to get enforcement,” he says. “We’re told on many occasions the only reason that [DPW] comes out is because we call.”

“If you can’t come out every two hours,” he said, “come every four hours.”

After three days of emails containing photographs of parking violations, he said enforcement finally came to his neighborhood one evening at 7 p.m.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) has long pushed DPW to increase enforcement in Ward 6 and to recognize areas where the status quo does not work.

“As our city grows, our main agency for parking enforcement needs to grow with it. I’ve been frustrated with a lack of advanced planning, seeing the agency prefer to react after it sees problems develop, rather than working with communities to identify problem areas before they develop. Parking enforcement is a critical part of ensuring that parking works for our neighborhoods. The lack of reliable parking enforcement hurts the quality of life for DC residents every single day — be it parking illegally in RPP spaces, a bike lane, or anywhere else. I will keep pushing to see DPW do better.”

Unwritten Rules
While parking enforcement in generally a concern in Ward 6, during certain times and during certain events it is a special challenge.

Parking enforcement is nearly impossible to come by on Sundays. It has long been an unwritten rule that residential parking in the District is not enforced by DPW on Sundays, although parking enforcement is provided by DPW for special events and along the H Street NE Streetcar line, said the Director. Many other agencies also have the ability to write a parking citation.

As for enforcement during special events, the opening of Audi Field in Southwest added another venue to the list of attractions to those driving in from outside the District and parking on Ward 6 streets. In New Hill East, special events at RFK Stadium can draw thousands of visitors who park along residential streets.

ANC 6B10 Commissioner Krepp said neighbors are being verbally threatened when they tell people without RPP that they cannot park on their streets. She said she had such an experience during the April 28th Broccoli City Festival at RFK Stadium, which sold 30,000 tickets, drawing many out of town guests.

She said she came home from seeing a friend the evening of the concert to find parked cars blocking access to her alley. “They were parked, they were drinking beer, there were four or five guys,” she said, adding that they began to get belligerent. She eventually called police to deal with it.

In the Southwest streets abutting The Wharf, where parking is at premium due to the demand of visitors, construction workers and residents, it is not uncommon to see out of state license plates parked on the resident-only side of streets. “I was getting out of my car having just parked on G Street between Seventh and Ninth Streets SW on the residentonly side. This guy pulls up in a black Suburban with Maryland tags. ‘Are you leaving? he asks me. ‘No,’ I said, pointing out that it was illegal for him to park on that side of G Street,” said Southwest resident and Capital Community News Editor Managing Andrew Lightman.

“Wharf visitors have no respect for our parking signs. It costs $30 to park underground and a RPP ticket is only $35 at most. Do the math,” Lightman observed.

Director Shorter said DPW was working with Events DC to determine how best to provide parking enforcement support in the future. He said DPW resource deployment was designed to enforce laws and keep traffic moving throughout the entire District.

“We do our best to balance the needs of each neighborhood, knowing that different areas of the District require additional personnel depending on traffic patterns, time of day, special events, emergencies, and other factors,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite their concerns with parking enforcement, Ward 6 residents continue to contact DPW through 311 via telephone, online and through Twitter, encouraging one another to report infractions until they get action. “In DC, sadly, usually one report isn’t enough,” one wrote on a popular neighborhood social media site.

“In DC, the squeaky (squealing) wheel gets the oil.”