From the Forum – Does a parking meter or street sign take precedence?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Néstor Sánchez Cordero

Does a parking meter or street sign take precedence?

“I was parking in DuPont Circle with my zone 2 parking pass, and noticed an area for zone 2 parking, but there were parking meters in the spaces. The area is clearly for zone 2 parking, as there are two end signs that clarify that. Do I need to pay the parking meter if I park there? Or is the parking meter there for non-zone 2 holders? Seems like a very tricky setup. I shouldn’t have to pay a meter in a zone 2 permit holder area, but I don’t want to risk getting a ticket and having to fight it.”

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18 Comment

  • meter.

    actually, i don’t think i fully understand the scenario, but it has been my experience that if there is a meter, you must pay it.

    • In general, I believe the most restrictive is what you should be following. If one sign says you cam, and the other says you can’t, then you probably can’t.

  • I’m guessing the signage is just poor. If you’re parked at a meter (during meter hours), you have to pay it. I’m guessing the situation the OP is asking about is similar to the corner of 14th and T. There are some meters right at the corner but as you walk West on T street, you enter resident (and two hour) parking pretty quickly.

    • Sounds the same as what happened near vida on church st. It was zone 2 parking then they added meters while the zone 2 signs remain.
      I thought signs controlled. No rush hr parking covering a meter means you can’t park there during rush hr, for example.
      With them being in direct conflict, I’d think you would be ok if you have a zone 2 sticker, but you may get a ticket and have to fight on those grounds.

  • I’d like to see DC bureaucrats’ heads explode if they were limited to a maximum of two easy-to-decipher signs for all parking spaces. I really don’t think they could do it.

    • Excepting willfully idiotic interpretations employed in a attempt to justify free parking, I’ve honestly never found dc parking signs all that difficult to interpret.

      • You simply aren’t parking enough.

        • SouthwestDC

          Agreed. I’ve gotten half a dozen tickets in the decade I’ve lived here, and none of them were because I was trying to park for free. One was for time running out on a meter, and the rest were because of unclear signage.
          The only reason I don’t get tickets any more is because I rarely park outside of my neighborhood.

      • Also, I know you weren’t trying to be helpful with your “idiotic interpretations” comments, but I’m kind of sick of the “It doesn’t happen to me, it must not exist” attitude. So if you really want to ponder for a minute, try 29th off M in Georgetown…right before the walking path over the canal. Two spots you’d really be stretching to indicate there was any sign telling you to pay to park. Yet common sense tells you that it’s too good to be true, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see a ticket if you don’t find a nearby Parkmobile zone and pay anyway.

        Exhibit B, the couple in front of Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights I watched try to interpret no less than 6 signs, wondering what the rules were about a week ago. After about 5 minutes, they came over to ask me, at which point I tried to resolve some conflicting info and told them they were better safe than sorry and should pay with Parkmobile just in case.

        And Exhibit C, the officer who ticketed my girlfriend in a combined zone area because she had one of the zones on her car but not the other. I ran into the officer by happenstance and explained she was parked right under the sign that says you can have either one of the permits (we took quite the wtf? picture showing the sign, her zone permit, and the ticket) and the officer looked a little surprised, then just said, “Write them and let them know.” After 3 months we were notified she didn’t actually owe a fine. I will, however, give you a pass on this one and assume you are calling the officer “willfully idiotic” in her interpretation, right?

  • You have to pay the meter. Your zone pass doesn’t give you free parking at meters, no matter what the zone. It might, however, exempt you from a 2hr max limit that all the other non-zoned plebeians have to adhere to. The sign will tell you if that’s the case.

  • I think it might depend on the precise wording, but on 14th Street in south Columbia Heights (Girard area) that IIRC say “2 hour parking max, Zone 1 holders exempt.” I can’t recall the wording, but this is different wording that the spaces north of the Metro stop, by Tivoli. I asked a parking enforcement agent and he indicated that I wouldn’t need to pay for the south 14th Street area but would in front of Tivoli. Of course, I asked this maybe 9 months ago and only worked up the courage to try it last week. Left my car parked there all day without paying the meter, received no ticket on the windshield (of course, could have a surprise in the mail…fingers crossed).

    • Actually, I may have given the TIvoli wording. Girard area probably says something like “Pay to park, 9am-6pm. Zone 1 exempt.” At least, that would make more sense.

    • i park in those zone 1 exempt spots all the time (closer to 14th and columbia, but same signage) and have left my car for 2 weeks while traveling internationally. you are correct!

  • DC1

    I’m guessing the OP is talking about the stretch of meters located on 20th between N and Sunderland Pl. After they installed the meters a few years back they never replaced the zoned parking signs. Since the signs/meter conflict you can always fight a parking ticket if you can provide proof that they conflict. So far I’ve parked at this location at least a dozen times with my zone 2 RPP and never been ticketed.

    • This is the OP and that is exactly where I am talking about. I tried to post a photo but it wouldn’t load the picture. I know how to read DC parking signs – as confusing as they can be – and it is very clearly labeled a zone 2 parking space (it is 20th Street between N street and New Hampshire on the west side).

      My main problem is that fighting a parking ticket takes time and energy that I shouldn’t have to spend, so hopefully they end up fixing the problem. I ended up paying the meter and repaying it after 2 hours just in case.

      • Contesting a parking ticket takes about 5 minutes online. Maybe 7 if you’re trying to include photos. Usually takes a few months to hear a response. If you lose, you just have to pay the ticket like you would’ve had to anyway. I’ve gotten in the habit of contesting every ticket I get (which is probably about 2-3 per year). Though in your case, I probably would’ve paid the meter as well.

  • This is a perennial question that goes back to the 90s when parking regulation was much simpler than it is now–now block-by-block variations everywhere in the city. The meter always trumps the sign. Signage is terrible here and often confusing, if only because there are multiple signs on one post and the shadings among them (usually weekends are more permissive than weekdays) are lost on tourists and others who rarely come into the city. the problem is both DC Govt and local citizens who insist on making things even more confusing in the name of “order” (or something).

  • Common sense would dictate that if you want to avoid a ticket, then assume that the most restrictive sign or option rules.

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