Dear PoPville – How to Deal with Road Blockage and Trucks Idling?

dc_delivery_trucks_idling
Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoPville,

14th St. and Columbia Rd NW is a really busy intersection and was so long before DCUSA opened. It’s full of commuters and especially traffic heavy during morning and evening rush hours.

This corner is also home to a 7-11 and, like all stores, it needs to be refilled on a regular basis. The semi trucks that bring all the Cheetos and Coke have been parking in the space for the bus stop on Columbia Road for years and essentially block half of the road while unloading.

I get that the 7-11 needs to be restocked and they’ve got to park somewhere. If they’d unload and then move on I wouldn’t be writing. The issue is that a truck will park and then sit there for three to four hours at a time blocking half of the road. Sometimes they don’t even unload, they just park and sit there, which obviously means they’re not restocking the store.

That’s where it affects me and my neighbors. I live in that building and work from home; I have to sit and listen to a monster truck’s engine and air conditioning units for half of my day. DC drivers aren’t known for their patience so it’s a constant stream of honking and occasional yelling. Columbia Heights is energetic enough without this, thank you.

The people who use the H busses and the Circulator are affected as a truck will make it difficult for a bus to pass. I’ve seen the whole thing completely jammed up on a few occasions as a bus will get stuck and then block 14th St southbound as well as Columbia Road. The day an ambulance got stuck in that mess wasn’t fun, I can only hope the person inside was OK after the lengthy delay to move on.

I’ve talked to 7-11 and they shrug or give platitudes that it’ll be moved soon. Calls to 911 and MPD haven’t worked so far. Calls to 311 and the Parking department haven’t worked either. My first thought was the WMATA might have some influence on asking law enforcement to keep the road clear but complaining about them not being proactive is like berating a badly socialized dog for going through the garbage.

In the grand scheme of things it’s just an inconvenience but it inconveniences a lot of people. What city department can keep the roadway clear? If this was a parked car it would be ticketed and towed in no time at all.”

54 Comment

  • who did you talk to in MPD?

    Have you emailed or talked to Commander Kishter (3rd district)?

    You can also try using the MPD 3rd district listserv on yahoo – that gets a good response.

    • OP here, I call 911 (it still makes me uneasy calling a number we’ve been conditioned to call for an emergency) and they take the details and are very nice. Then the truck sits there for a few more hours and then moves by itself.

      I didn’t think of bringing in the District Commander as the cops have real work to do. This seems like such a waste of their time. I’ll give the listerv a look as well, that’s really useful info, thank you.

      • Emilie504

        How did no one learn it’s ok to call 911 for non emergency police or fire house stuff as long as you tell them from the start it’s a non emergency? I remember commercials teaching people how to use 911 and that this was ok. Sometimes you have to call and report stuff that is not life threatening, just this isn’t an emergency and tell them what up. They can prioritize.

  • This is pretty egregious. I’d start with Cdr. Kishter, who has been responsive to me in the past. That said, DC police don’t see traffic enforcement as their job, so you may be facing an uphill battle.

    • OP here, thanks for the name, I’ll try and track him/her down. Like I said it’s not the end of the world and it’s a busy part of town. I see cop cars go by while the trucks sit there and having them have to pay attention to this is such a waste of their already overstretched duties.

      7-11 could fix this by telling them to move on after they’ve delivered. I’m sure they’ll get on that right after they start stocking tofu and stop selling monster sugary drinks.

  • A group of residents from 13th and Monroe recently got together to discuss the noise issues stemming from poor parking and traffic control at their corner. Perhaps they learned something useful, or perhaps residents affected by the same issue elsewhere in the city could come together in larger numbers to push for action from the city.

    I’m sorry I don’t have contact information for that group; maybe something about it came up here on PoP?

  • That’s a well-written letter that properly lays out your legitimate complaint without going over the top. I’d sending it to your councilman, Jim Graham. If he or his office can’t intervene directly they should be able to at least offer guidance as to a direction for you to proceed.

    • TYPO: I’d “SUGGEST” sending it…

    • OP here, I did drop a line to CM Graham who’s got super connectivity powers and responded quickly. He forwarded it along and I didn’t get any comment back from the cc’d.

      CM Graham’s always been responsive and helpful for other problems that ran into dead ends. I’m a fan.

  • NYC has an idling law that makes it illegal for cars to sit idle for more than 5 minutes at a time. Shame DC doesn’t.

    http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8585.html

    • Wait, DC does have an idling law!

      http://ddoe.dc.gov/service/engine-anti-idling-law

      Contact info:
      Manuel Oliva
      Contact Email:
      manuel.oliva@dc.gov
      Contact Phone:
      202-724-7650
      Contact TTY:
      711

      • “Engines may idle when they are necessary for the operation of power takeoff equipment such as dumping beds, cement mixers, refrigeration systems, content delivery equipment, winches, or shredders”.

        Betcha the food delivery trucks in question have refrigeration systems, and are therefore exempt from this law.

        It’s still good to have, though.

      • I’d love to see DC statistics on how often someone has actually paid a fine for this.

        • I think they may enforce this ordinance on the C Street side of the Newseum where all the coach-size buses drop off group tours. There are clearly-marked billboard signs saying it is against city ordinance to leave engines idling for over X amount of minutes. That said, I have never seen a bus get a ticket and I work close.

    • yeah, in the 10 years i lived in NYC, i never saw anyone get cited for idling.

  • Don’t forget that they also block the bike lanes on 14! This happens all over the place, but it’s especially bad on 14th between Columbia Road and Park Road. The trucks (and regular car and van drivers too) think they can just sit off to the side of the road for as long as they want, not realizing (or not caring) that they are in the bike lane. It can be dangerous to bike around them, since that puts you in the cars’ lanes.

    • Love the username!

    • If you check out this Seven Eleven during the day the trucks will sit there and block the 14th Street bike lane as well as a lane of south bound traffic. It’s a problem either way.

  • Unfortunately, double parked delivery trucks are a necessary evil.

    • Anonymous July 17, 2013 at 2:02 p.m. very clearly did not read the OP’s letter. S/he says the trucks are there for 3 to 4 hours at a time – sometimes not even making deliveries.

      • That’s an exaggeration, simply untrue. I live two blocks away and have never seen trucks there for that long. Maybe 30-45 minutes, tops. As I said the first time, a necessary evil.

        • OP here, as you mention you live two blocks away and not in this location. With due respect you don’t have to sit here during the day and experience it. It’s not every day but it’s still a PIA when it happens.

  • andy

    At the core of the Dear PoPville complaint is, “I moved to the busiest intersection in Columbia Heights and work from home. I expected noise and congestion, but not THIS MUCH.”

    I think, in truth, you should have expected A LOT of noise and congestion at that location.

    • Agreed.
      Reminds me of yesterday’s comments about the townhouse owners in core DC complaining about honks and how no one should ever do it. Um, this IS a city and you decided to buy in the busiest part of it. There’s plenty of quieter ‘hoods in DC and the ‘burbs.

    • No one should ever try to improve the place they live? The letter writer has a problem, and his problem is OTHER people’s problem– people who honk because a truck is blocking traffic, people in ambulances, people trying to board buses and then GO somewhere in said buses. What’s wrong with seeing a problem that affects many people and then trying to fix the problem? The only person benefiting from this situation is the truck driver, and we don’t know what his motivations/ needs are. But I feel pretty confident in guessing that his concerns don’t outweigh those of the people who are inconvenienced by his actions.

      • “The only person benefiting from this situation is the truck driver, and we don’t know what his motivations/ needs are.”

        Just a wild guess, but probably to do as little work as possible.

        If the OP really wants to make a change, call the truck driver’s fleet company. All these truck are owned by beverage distribution companies and I’m sure that they would love to know that one of their drivers has been shirking for 4 hours everyday. Usually the company name and number is printed on the side or back of the truck. Be sure to record the license plate number.

    • At the core of your response is “Someone is complaining about a problem and I’m going to pretend to be tougher about it and not care, so you should just deal with it.”
      I think, in truth, you should encourage people to help solve problems instead of just dealing with it.

    • I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect that a delivery truck won’t sit and idle for hours outside your window, blocking traffic, no matter what intersection you live on.

  • thebear

    Take photos every time you see an illegally parked vehicle. Email to your ANC commissioner, Graham, and post on Twitter to @dcdpw. Include location/date/time. It will eventually get some enforcement going. Unfortunately, it does not last very long. Also, keep in mind that the major brand distributors pretty much ignore or just pay tickets as often as necessary.

    What you might want to do is take down the tag numbers of offending vehicles, look up their ticket tally on the website, and pass that to the same email and twitter recipients. I did get a FedEx truck booted that had been parking in the rush hour exclusion lane on my block for months…after I publicized how much that particular truck owed in fines going back over a year…and some photos of MPD just ignoring it.

  • Of course if a non-commercial vehicle was doing this you’d get a ticket and/or towed in seconds. DC may be bad at a lot of government services, but they have German precision on handing out parking tickets. These trucks should not be allowed to block the flow of traffic, or should get citations.

    • For a couple of years the police would drive around and move vehicles that were blocking lanes. Then it seemed to suddenly stop. It’s really bad on Q and R between 17 and 14 at all times of day.

      I wonder what happened to that program?

    • I don’t even drive in the city, but it really does seem unfair if trucks aren’t ticketed in egregious situations like this. An hour or so seems reasonable, but beyond that it’s clearly a public nuisance.

      • What’s even worse is that heavy delivery trucks quite literally destroy our roads and degrade our air quality. They put an enormous strain on our transportation infrastructure. If anyone is being ticketed for parking and traffic infractions, it should be the delivery trucks.

  • Appears parking authority is writing them a ticket in the epic?

  • The fundamental problem is this: The District, like most older cities is currently structured so that there are few (if any) commercial loading facilities accessible to delivery people. The alley to get behind the building is too small to accomodate a delivery truck

    There is no excuse for it, the opportunity comes to pass every 40-50 years in commerical districts as they are rebuilt, DC has had the opportunity to address the issue on about 40% of the downtown business District the past 13 years as private developers spent nearly 120 billion during that period renovating existing, or building new office buildings. No, not every block could have had sufficient loading / delivery facilities, but many could have. The problem was largely ignored.

    Which brings me to my final point. You can call the entire council, call your ANC all you like. Some of them will feign effort, some of them won’t and perhaps Parking Enforcement becomes more efficient at ticketing commercial delivery offenders, but in the end nothing will change. Why? Because despite the furor, commercial buildings need to be accessed, restocked, supplied on a near daily basis and the companies that deliver to them simply build in tickets as a cost of doing business, that they then pass on to the rest of us. DC Parking enforcement issues thousands of tickets a year to the big three, UPS/FedEx and DHS, but delivery companies like this one get them every day too.

    This entire debacle is worsened when DDOT sees fit to remove street parking or loading zones to put in bike lanes, then they wonder why they are getting complaints that delivery drivers are parked in the bike lanes.

    • Did you read the original post?

      “I get that the 7-11 needs to be restocked and they’ve got to park somewhere. If they’d unload and then move on I wouldn’t be writing. The issue is that a truck will park and then sit there for three to four hours at a time blocking half of the road. Sometimes they don’t even unload, they just park and sit there, which obviously means they’re not restocking the store.”

      The OP is not complaining about ordinary deliver-and-move-on situations, but rather about flagrant abuse.

      • I live in this building and while it annoys me the trucks park there, I have never seen any truck sit there for 3 or 4 hours. I think the OP is either exxagerating or assuming that multiple trucks that sit there during the day, are the same one

        • You missed the white one that was parked there on Monday, engine idling and air conditioning unit on top full tilt, from 7am to 1pm?

          Lucky you.

    • Interesting points. You see grocery stores adapting and doing away with parking requirements, I suppose the only thing from them adapting for deliveries is twofold: that they can get away with parking big trucks and not getting tickets; and loading up smaller vans would simply cost more.

      • Pretty much every major grocery store that I frequent in NW DC has delivery truck loading bays.

        Pharmacies on the other hand……..

    • While I agree with most of this post, I doubt that truck loading zones were eliminated to make space room for bike lanes. I can’t even imagine how that could work. The issue isn’t bike lanes versus curb space, the issue is business loading zones versus parking for cars (and bus stops too). I personally would LOVE to see half the car parking spaces in this city eliminated and given over to delivery and taxi pickup/dropoff zones or even additional traffic lanes. That would go a long way to easing a lot of congestion in this city!

    • Bike lanes? You’re going to blame bikers on this? God, to you people, bikers really are the devil, aren’t they? This is getting absolutely absurd.

  • I was sitting at a restaurant for lunch one day in Dupont and a UPS truck parked (legally) to make deliveries, but did not pay the meter while he was doing it. A parking enforcement guy and, what I must believe was supervisor, spent about 20 minutes issuing a ticket. The UPS guy seemed pretty unfazed by the entire thing and ignored them. I imagine they get tickets all the time because there isn’t really another option for making a delivery. The kicker was that the parking enforcement person was obviously also illegally parked the entire time.

  • I’ve asked one of these delivery truck drivers about this and if they have trouble coordinating parking and loading zone usage…he said “Nope. I’m always able to find parking. I just pull my truck up wherever I want to, I don’t pay the tickets.”

    So enforcement will be difficult….as the drivers don’t care about getting ticketed.

  • Didn’t the Berlin airlift solve all this? Just drop the supplies from a plane!

  • I read a great article in the Philadelphia Inquirer when I lived there about this problem. They were talking specifically about FedEx and UPS trucks. One of those two companies (I don’t remember which one) commented to the reporter that they had about $300,000 in the annual budget for Philadelphia, and a similar budget in similar cities, to pay parking tickets. They said that they just build that amount into the cost of sending packages to or from big cities, and that consumers just pay it.

    That being said, there ought to be some type of update to the zoning code as it’s being updated to require a loading plan for certain types of businesses (FedEx stores, CVS, 7-11, etc) that allows the ticket writers to cite both the vehicle AND THE BUSINESS if it is not followed. I can assure you, all 7-11s are franchise stores. The delivery companies may not care, but a small business owner, like a franchisee, would make them follow the rules or would just carry different products if they got ticketed too. In the meantime, I second the idea of calling the fleet management company, but I’m sadly not sure it will get very far.

  • Call the Coca cola bottling group and give them the number of the trucks and photos of the driver. Those route salesmen are supposed to be busy. If they park for hours at a time, something is not right. Coke won’t care that they block the street, but they may care that the driver is either goofing off or doing something fishy.

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