Emergency No Parking Frustration from Both Sides

Photo by PoPville flickr user John M

On the one hand:

“I’ve seen quite a few posts on Popville about little or no notice when posting emergency parking signs, but not much about enforcement. I recently moved between apartments within the district and found the enforcement to be essentially non-existent.

New rules have been put in place to help avoid ticketing and towing when the signs are not posted at least 72 hours. Now the signs must be posted in advance and verified by DDOT in order for vehicles parked in the reserved spaces to be ticketed and towed. Well, at least in theory…

During my recent move, I had my signs up on a Sunday in advance of a Friday morning move. The exact start time was 5 PM on a Thursday as I anticipated vehicles would be parked in the spaces regardless of hanging the signs for the moving truck. I was right.

At 10 PM the evening before my move, I called to request the four cars to be ticketed and towed. The next morning, I got up at 6 AM. No tickets. No towing. I called to follow-up on the status of my request and was informed that there is a bizarre Cinderella rule and my request whether addressed or not was closed at midnight and that I would need to file a new one.

Subsequent to filing a new request, I was informed that the city workers who can actually write tickets would not be clocking-in for work until 7 AM and that I should then allow 2 hours for them to arrive. In addition, the police are not able to write tickets now because they do not have access to know whether the signs were verified as hung at least 72 hours in advance.

In short, there is absolutely no way to enforce these signs for an early morning move and I essentially paid $55 in order to avoid a larger ticket for having a moving truck blocking the street. Not being able to park in the designated spaces also complicates the moving process and can increase the amount of time professional movers are on the clock (i.e., I pay more). I’m wondering if anyone else has a similar experience, especially with getting a refund. I’ve contacted DPW, Office of the Mayor, and two city council members with little progress.”

and on the other hand:

“I live on a block that manages to have a lot of resident turnover – brownstones with group houses and apt buildings. It follows that there are frequent moving trucks and no parking signs. A few between trees is to be expected and understood. Moving sucks and you don’t want to have to lift or move furniture and items any farther from your house than need be. But recently I have noticed people stretching out their private moving zones longer than the Middle East peace process. Just tonight someone thought it within their right to rope off almost 90 feet of public parking space to enable their move. That’s just shy of seven average car lengths, a full three more than I believe DDOT allows. I took down one of the signs in order to call the offending party, but I am curious if PoP folks have grumbled about this recently. My car has been towed several times when people throw the signs up a day or two, or even the night before they move, when they are supposed to have them up, what five days in advance? Just strikes me that this issue is ripe for debate. How many others are riled? Having a car in the city is a luxury, but the oversight over the moving sign industry is certainly lax, in my experience.”

42 Comment

  • I moved last month, posted signs at both my former house and my new house. We posted the signs 72 hours ahead of time and had them verified. At the former house (on the unit block of U Street NW) we called to have a car towed at 7 am. A person came to ticket the car within 20/30 minutes. He took pictures of our signs and of the car, and called the tow truck. The actual tow truck came probably another 30 minutes after that.

    At the new place (13th Street NW in Columbia Heights) we called to have a car towed around 11 am. No one ever showed up. We got a call later that afternoon – maybe 3pm? I forget, but it was well after the move was complete to ask if we still needed the car to be ticketed.

    • how do you get the signs “verified?” Does some city official actually come out and give you an acknowledgement that the signs are properly posted? I’d like to know for my next move!

      • They give you a number to call with the information you get with your signs (when you pick them up at the police station).

      • As the other poster said, they give you a number to call. I just moved, and it went perfectly – the signs were obeyed, so I had no issues. Getting the signs at 4th St SW was actually amazingly easy as well. They don’t enforce the signs on Sundays though, so sadly, if you want/need to truly rely on the signs, I agree with the tips below to move during the week. Less cars in the neighborhoods then anyway. It is unfortunate, but true. Also, get your signs for an earlier time than you need to allow time for enforcement.

  • I feel OP’s pain. I purchased signs for moving last summer, put them up 72 hours in advance, as is required, called the number they give you to have someone from DDOT drive past to ensure you’ve placed them properly, and there were still people parked in every space I’d marked, for the entire period of time. By the time we called to request someone come remove the cars/ticket them, we’d already parked the moving truck in an alley and quickly unloaded it (only possible because we thankfully had multiple friends helping out) so that we weren’t blocking the alley for more than 10 minutes.

    I will say that officers did eventually show up and ticket the cars, but it was about 2 hours after we’d called them, and well after we’d unloaded the truck and even returned it. Not super helpful. What it did do, however, was cause our new neighbors to despise us for getting them ticketed for parking in an emergency no parking zone. Awesome.

    Long story short, I’ll never pay $55 to get those signs again. It’s a complete waste of money. You still run the risk of parking in an alley/double parking someone else in/parking far away and walking blocks all your heavy furniture. It turns out the $55 guarantees you nothing.

  • I have purchased, put up 72 hours in advance, and requested tickets/towing four times in the last four years and not once have they been fully effective. I moved this past weekend and I went to get coffee around 7am, saw one car parked in my space, and thought well that sucks, but it was only 7am (my start time was 7am). By the time my moving truck was there at 8:30am, ANOTHER car had parked in my space clearly in violation.

    I just bought a condo so I don’t plan on moving any time soon, but I have decided I am not going to waste the $55 for those signs ever again.

    • My rule of thumb: if you’re on a street where double-parking the moving truck won’t completely block traffic, don’t waste your time bothering with these signs.

  • Two experiences:
    1. Moved from a rowhouse on a CoHi/MtP sidestreet, displayed signs the required number of days ahead of time. Woke up that Friday morning to see two cars still parked in my designated spaces, flagged down a parking cop who told me she’d write the tickets, but I’d have to call 3-1-1 to get the tow truck out there. I spent 30 minutes or so on the phone trying to reach a live person who could help me, got frustrated and decided that my street was un-busy enough to block 1 lane of traffic if I needed to.
    2. Moved from one of the ABC streets in bloomingdale, hung the signs, had no problems with neighbors parking in front of them.

    I think people will (rightly) assume that if it’s a street without streetlights or much traffic, then the signs won’t be enforced.

  • The trick (or maybe it’s just been blind luck) that I’ve found that makes these things work is three points:
    1 – always do a mid-day move on a weekday, so the ticket people and the tow people are actually working. Don’t even try to have movers come before 10am.
    2 – always go that morning to both sites and request ticketing / towing and move something, like your trash cans, into any open spots in your designated truck area to deter people from parking there if they aren’t already.
    3 – always block off double the space your moving truck actually needs (sorry, second OP who has had problems with this, but this may explain why) to maximize the chances that enough space will be available around the people who park there anyway to fit the truck.
    I will recommend, though – be considerate of your neighbors, and as soon as your truck arrives on-site, take down your signs if they’re blocking any extra space so that others can park there while you load and unload. Once the truck is on the curb, it doesn’t need any more space after that!

    • Pro tips. When I moved last fall, I blocked off about 4 car-lengths with my signs (which IIRC is what the DDOT website recommends). When I got there, there were cars parked in two of the spots, but the truck still had enough room to get in. Halfway through the move, though, one of my new neighbors came out and saw the truck unloading and offered to move her car (which was parked in my zone) but like I said, we luckily had enough space.
      If you’re bold, it could be a good idea to knock on your neighbors’ doors and ask if the cars blocking your zone are theirs or if they know whose they are, and politely ask them to relocate while you move. I know we’re not very sociable people here, but better make the offer than have someone towed!
      My issue is more with people reserving their spots for upwards of 8 hours for a move, which is one reason people might think it’s OK to park in those zones. “Oh, it’s 3:00 and the sign is for 7AM-6PM. They’re probably done moving by now and forgot to take down the signs.”

      • Even when I lived in a studio and barely owned anything it would take me at least 8 hours to move. I would definitely reserve that much time for it!

        • 8hrs to load and unload?!?
          Maybe I just pre-plan/pack a lot, but I’ve never taken more than 3 hrs to move. 8hrs is crazy!

        • Are you doing this move with no assistance? I have a jam-packed one bedroom worth of stuff and (with professional movers) it’s taken well less than eight hours to move.

    • Consideration of your neighbors is an interesting thing.

      I saw someone move in across the street. They had put up the signs as required but literally nobody moved their car. They could have just doubled parked their truck and moved in, more than ample space for traffic to go around. Instead I watched as they decided to call the cops and have the cop ticket everyone that was parked in “their” space. Technically the people that are parked there are in the wrong. However, do you really want to actively give a ticket to (possibly) your neighbor if you don’t need to?

      I just stood looking out my window and had another sip of coffee. HAHA

      • Well, I don’t think everyone would take kindly to having some stranger knock on their door and ask them to go outside and move their car. Plus if your moving time is early in the morning you could risk someone being seriously pissed you’re waking them up, etc.

        And how do you decide how many doors to knock on before you’ve done your due diligence and given your neighbors a warning that they need to move? Aren’t the signs you paid for their warning about towing/ticketing? Four doors? Six doors? While your movers/friends are just waiting patiently in the truck with nowhere to park?

        • HaileUnlikely

          I basically agree, but would they be less pissed about having their car towed?

          • Sure. I guess what I’m saying is you could easily spend 20 minutes knocking on doors in hopes of finding the people who parked in your reserved spots when you should be able to spend that time moving your stuff in/out of your house. If the signs were free, I wouldn’t complain one bit, but they’re $55. If you buy them for both the old and new house, that’s $110 down the drain.

            If you recognize the car as a neighbor’s and know which house is theirs, that’s a different story.

      • Accountering

        Well, it was “their” space. They paid the $55 to get the spot for those hours. Don’t park where you aren’t allowed, and you wont get a ticket.

      • I see your point, but the car neighbor (assuming it was a neighbor) chose to park in the space. If someone is going through the trouble of reserving, paying money, etc, parking in the moving area is inconveniencing them. I know parking is tough on a lot of streets, but if you’re choosing to park where signs are clearly posted, you’re taking the risk.

    • Another neighborly tactic: On the afternoon before the move, the person who reserved the spaces put a brightly colored flyer on the windshields of the cars still parked there nicely reminding us about the start time. We’re on a street where there had been a lot of coming and going and street work and some old parking signs still lingering, this seemed like a good way of calling attention to the need to move our cars, while also saving themselves from some of the “but how was I supposed to know the signs were for real” complaints.

  • My experience was the same — I paid the $55 to block off 3 cars worth of space needed to unload my items. The neighbors didn’t comply and I didn’t even waste my time contacting DPW and bit the bullet and had my movers unload a couple of houses down. It extended the move time by maybe 15-20 min but didn’t end up costing me extra. Like JS said, if you can double park and not block traffic, don’t worry about paying the $55. Sorry you had the sh!tty albeit totally normal DC moving experience.

    • Our next door neighbors, who bought their house and moved in two weeks before us, had the same experience and told us not to bother with the signs. We still had a neighbor chide us for parking illegally, and then the police showed up and we had to throw everything onto the sidewalk so we could get rid of the van. It was stressful but I think the same thing would have happened if we got the signs.

  • My last move out of Glover Park I did everything right to find a moving van in my reserved spot – one that I did NOT hire. The girl who DID hire it goes, “those are MY signs” and ran away to work on her move.

    Despite my friendly face, I am unfortunately not very nice, so I called 911. Once the cops came she was singing a different tune and had to have her movers park illegally elsewhere. Just in time for my own movers to arrive.

    • For the record, I would not pull the same stunt on new neighbors, or if I was moving into a “forever” home.

      • That girl shouldn’t have had her moving van park there — I don’t blame you in the least for calling 911.

  • DC1

    Don’t bother contacting parking enforcement to ticket/tow a vehicle. During my last move I dialed 911 because there was a car right in the middle of the reserved spots and the moving truck was circling around the block. The cop that showed up told me that the most common mistake is contacting parking enforcement. He ticketed and had the car towed within 15 mins.

    • A police officer actually came out around 6:30 AM. He told me that, ever since they implemented the new rule requiring validation that signs are hung in advance, DC police is not able to ticket vehicles parked in reserved parking because DCPS has no way of knowing whether the signs were actually hung in advance.

      Thus, my main qualm: there is no way to enforce reserved parking if you have a long day of moving ahead of you, you want to start at 8 AM, and no one even clocks into work that CAN ticket the cars until around 7 AM. By the time the cars are ticketed and towed, you’re pretty much already done packing up the truck.

      So what did I pay for?

  • How is having a car in the city a luxury? Until the suburbs get some better public transit a lot of us need our cars to get to work.

    • Most DC residents who work in the suburbs work in a place that’s easily transit accessible–Arlington, Bethesda, DTSS, or Tyson’s. I don’t doubt that you need your car to get to work, but people like you are a small minority of DC residents.

  • So, I moved in January. I bought signs for both addresses (in town move). Reading the rules carefully, the rules actually state that you have to have the signs verified for the Emergency no Parking signs, but does not otherwise reference the Reserved No Parking signs. Since one sign is for one purpose and the other sign for another purpose, I assumed that the verification step was not applicable to me. I know now that is not the case, but just to point out one of the obvious problems with the lack of clarity provided. I had not moved in three years and the last time I did move, that rule was not in place so it was new to me.

    I posted my signs 72 hours in advance (more really) for both locations. In both locations cars were parked. I called to have them towed. Because I did not have it verified, that means the only option is to have DPW ticket/tow and you go into whatever queue they might have. Otherwise, if you verify, the city uses private tow companies that are allegedly faster. I left the signs up for days with basically the same cars parked in both locations the entire time and no one got a single ticket or was towed. $110 wasted.

    If your movers can park anywhere at all (even illegally on the corner), just do that. It isn’t worth the money and stress to pay, go to the police station and print signs, have them verified, when even that doesn’t seem to help based on the comments here. If you do choose to buy the signs, definitely verify them because if you do not, there’s basically no chance the city is going to bother doing anything even though they still have the authority to ticket the cars. I am flabbergasted the city actually doesn’t bother to write a ticket when it can. It’s also good if you own a car to remember that you should check on your car every 72 hours or so to be sure you’re not all of a sudden parked in a no parking zone. If someone posts the signs, move your car. It’s the right thing to do. We all know how difficult moving is. Don’t make it harder on someone by being a prig.

  • Another piece of advice is to move during a street cleaning day starting at the time the street cleaning ends. That at least increases your chances the cars will be out of the way.

  • There’s “right” and there’s “reality.” Some people are willfully obnoxious and ignoring your signs, some are just distracted and missing them. It doesn’t really matter as far as you getting to the desired end – a clear space for a moving truck.

    Concentrate on the results.

    Do NOT rely on just the signs. Get string or construction tape and run it between the signs. Hang some bright-colored paper signs on the string or tape. Get some sidewalk chalk and chalk hell out of your reserved zone. Print up flyers on bright colored paper and stick them on every windshield of every car for the entire 72 hours prior to the move. If the space is open – put something in it to block – an old chair etc. Recruit some helpful neighbors to park and reserve the space if you can.

    And then be a good person and take down the signs when you’re done!

    • Of course you can do all of this, but I think the point is that you shouldn’t have to if you’re forking out $110 to the city for parking spots for your truck. These parking signs should be enforced in the same way as street parking all across the city. You’d think DDOT would jump on the chance to get money from all the tickets they could be handing out. But maybe all the money they’re making from selling the no parking signs makes up for it.

  • I’m surprised no one called out the second OP on this: “My car has been towed several times when people throw the signs up a day or two, or even the night before they move, when they are supposed to have them up, what five days in advance?”
    The requirement is that the signs have to be up 72 hours in advance for residential streets and 24 hours in advance for commercial streets.

    • Apparently this is precisely why the verification system is in place – to ensure the person actually posted the signs 72 hrs in advance. Makes sense. The issue is the instructions telling you to do that lack some clarity since the signs are called different things depending on your purpose for getting them. For a single day move, they are called Reserved No Parking signs. But when you print them out, the instructions state that you have to call and verify only for Emergency No Parking signs, which are usually when you need to block off the spot for an extended period of time (more than a day) for a moving pod or utility work or something. So that is problem number one.

      Problem number two is that some people, especially during the winter, do not check on their cars every day or even every three days. When I moved recently, two of the spots covered by my signs had cars that had been parked there for quite a while and were still in the same spots days after my move. This is why is it is even more important that the city TOWS the cars when the signs are verified. There’s no guarantee anyone is going to know you posted your signs and that they are now parked illegally.

      It really is just an ineffective system, but I am not sure what the alternative is. I do think charging people $55 per location means the city needs to be more responsive when people ignore the signs. It’s absurd that two days after my last move, the signs were still up (I refused to take them down because I was so angry the city never towed or ticketed the cars), the same cars were still parked there and none received a single ticket. While I was moving out, one of the three spots covered by the signs opened up and in the course of the hour it took my movers to get everything out, I stood there and watched 20+ people attempt to park in the spot. I ran them off every time. It was pretty amazing to see people actively trying to ignore the no parking signs. I feel like if the city ticketed and towed with regularity, this would not happen so much.

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