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“The city towed me to Mass. Ave where my car proceeded to rack up an additional $400 in rush hour parking citations”

by Prince Of Petworth August 13, 2015 at 2:25 pm 99 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Josh Bassett

“Dear PoPville,

I recently returned from a 10-day vacation to find that my car was towed for parking in a street cleaning zone on P Street NW. (I expected a ticket, not to be towed.) The kicker, though, is what happened next: The city towed me to Massachusetts Avenue NW, where my car proceeded to rack up an additional $400 in rush hour parking citations.

Why on earth would the city tow my car to one of the district’s busiest streets? I’m guessing the answer is simple: Easy revenue (fairness be damned). Oh, and for the record: I’m challenging it.”

  • Accountering

    Just go challenge it, and report back. They should wipe them after the first two and ticket. That is what my experience with this has been.

    • Update from OP: “WUSA9 picked up on it and interviewed me this evening about what happened. And lo and behold, when they asked the city for comment about my situation, the city immediately voided my Mass. Ave. tickets”

      • The OP Anon

        Ugh, I’m more angry that the city is just enabling this “special little snowflake.”

        • Seriously. I wonder if he gave them the same story as presented here. Someone should pass along this page to the WUSA9 folks and see the reaction.

        • Warren


  • textdoc

    “I recently returned from a 10-day vacation to find that my car was towed for parking in a street cleaning zone on P Street NW. (I expected a ticket, not to be towed.)”
    The street sweeping signs include the wording “tow-away zone.” This might not always be enforced, but you shouldn’t be surprised that you were towed.

  • Anon

    “I expected a ticket, not to be towed.”
    Yes, DC was wrong for moving you to Mass, but they probably also didn’t expect your car to stay there 10 days. In the future, don’t park and expect the sweeper to go around you… Its kind of difficult to imagine the challenge being successful (unless they are lazy, which is a likely option) given that the whole mess was your fault to begin with.

    • +1 if you’re actually going to contest it you better come up with a much better excuse than what you’ve admitted to here.

      • Anon


      • jwetz

        I’ve seen tickets for parking in a no parking zone dismissed because “there wasn’t anywhere else to park.”

        • textdoc

          Was this recent?
          I successfully contested a couple of unjustified parking tickets in the mid-2000s. However, when I tried to contest an unjustified ticket circa 2012, my appeal was rejected — even with photo evidence.
          Makes me think that the adjudicators are now on some kind of quota system and have to reject a certain (high) percentage of appeals, regardless of the merits of any particular case.

          • anon

            I contested one recently – that was actually my fault – and got it vastly reduced. The key is to go in person, not do it thru the mail, I think.

          • textdoc

            Anon 5:01 pm, thanks for the feedback. Hmm, maybe I’ll try that if it happens again.

  • You purposely parked in a street sweeping lane and only expected a ticket? How did you expect the street sweeper to get through? You knowingly said F U to the law by not parking in an appropriate spot, and now want to blame someone else for the result?

    • Anon

      +1. This. I was trying to say it a little less bluntly, but your words are almost exactly what went through my head when I read this post.

      • Anon2

        Going on a ten day vacation, you’re not left with much choice. Are they supposed to drive the car out to VA somewhere and pay to park it for a week in a garage?

        • ***

          Or give keys to a friend / neighbor to take care of your car while you are away. It’s called being an adult.

          • I Dont Get It

            Or park at Union Station or somewhere metro accessible with long term parking.

        • SWer

          “Are they supposed to drive the car out to VA somewhere and pay to park it for a week in a garage?”

          The answer is yes.

        • also anon

          Believe it or not there are places in DC that don’t have street sweeping restrictions. There are also cheap neighborhood lots or airport lots. Popville has had a bunch of posts about stuff like this.

        • JS

          Yes. Drive it to the airport and put it long term parking.

        • Eponymous

          Yes. It’s called long-term airport parking. Or, there are places with unzoned parking. Or some people have friends and relatives (or so I’ve heard). There are LOTS of options besides just leaving it and hoping for the best. Sheesh.

        • G

          Yes. Owning a car costs money and comes with responsibility.

        • Anon

          Is that a real question? There are so many streets that do not have sweepers. Will it take a while circling the blocks to find a space? Yes. Is it worth not paying 400+ in tickets and parking in a towaway zone? I would certainly say so.

        • Yeah, pretty much. Or you could just say “screw my neighbors; streets won’t get cleaned but I’m not here anyway!”

          DC ticketwriters suck for many reasons, but “I intentionally blew off the law and now I’m mad they didn’t tow me to a better parking spot” is not one of them.

        • Caroline

          Why not just park on an adjacent street that doesn’t have street sweeping? No need to go out to VA, or even leave the neighborhood.

        • spookiness


    • Anonymous

      Given that ticketing–and not towing–has been the standard for this violation on certain streets for many years, it was not a crazy expectation, even if the city has a right to tow. (The street sweeper just sweeps around a spot that week, fyi) Certainly he can’t fight that original ticket, but no need to be so scornful.

      • siz

        i’ve been ticketed and towed for this twice (in my quiet neighborhood without a ton of parking demand) in the last two years so i think it really just depends on who the ticket writer is that day.

      • Thunder

        I see them towing cars from Maryland Ave NE on street cleaning days all the time. Lucky they don’t tow the cars to Blue Plains.

    • ***

      Yeah, I have literally zero sympathy for this person. It’s the same attitude as people who park in no-parking zones during rush hour “Oh well, I’ll just get a ticket and what’s a hundred bucks?” I wish they would enforce all no-parking zones by towing cars – preferably to an impound lot in a super inconvenient location to get to so that these self-entitled a-holes get what they deserve.

      • A Longtime Citizen

        Funnily enough, the current impound facility is so far away and inconvenient that they do these courtesy tows not for your convenience but rather because if they towed everyone to blue plains the tow trucks would spend 95% of their time in transit.

        • plus

          If you’d been towed to blue plains it’s $100 for the tow, $20/day for storage after the first day, and probably at least a $30 cab ride to the impound lot. So $400 in tickets isn’t that much worse.

    • OP

      Wow, lots of hostility in these here comments. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of you ass hats missed the point, which was to question why the parking folks would tow the car to one of the busiest streets in the entire city, where it was just going to make life difficult for commuters anyway.

      As it happens, I went on vacation and left my keys with a friend so he could move the car before street sweeping. Unfortunately, because of unforeseen circumstances, he couldn’t do that. So of course I expected a ticket, and I even accepted that I might get towed (even though that tends not to happen in this neighborhood for simple street cleaning violations). What I don’t accept is the city towing me to one of the busiest thoroughfares in the district and then slapping me with citations for “parking in a rush hour zone.” THEY parked it in the rush hour zone.

      • palisades

        Maybe you should have explained that, instead of sounding like an ass saying “I expected a ticket.” For the record, I still have no sympathy for you.

      • 14th Street

        Yeah, seriously. You left out an important part of the story (that you had arranged for your friend to move your car), and then you blow up when people react to the story as you related it? In your original post, it sounded like you intentionally, and blissfully, flouted the street-sweeping regulations. And so people reacted with hostility. Are you surprised?

      • ***

        Still zero sympathy – the city towed your car to the first available space they could find. It’s not their responsibility to tow your car to a location you find agreeable. I get your friend couldn’t move the car and that sucks for you, but sorry. Them’s the brakes.

      • Anonymous

        People are really being jerks today. Apparently, there is no middle ground at all. I’m sorry that what would have been a minor $45 violation turned into such a headache for you. Of course towing it to Mass Ave makes no sense.

        • Anonymous

          *would have been a minor $45 violation 99% of the time

      • pjl35

        the fact that you’re now being rude to the people who you asked for advice, after leaving out some of the information, and calling them “ass hats” makes me lose any sympathy i may have had for you. clearly, you’re not the most respectful person out there if you have to resort to name calling just because people don’t agree with you.

      • Anonymouse

        Maybe you don’t see it this way, but the city was actually doing you a favor by towing your car to a nearby street and not to an impound lot. How was the city supposed to know that you would be gone for 10 days? For all they know, you would have picked up your car that night, thereby missing the rush hour period. I think you should consider yourself lucky that you didn’t have to go to the Blue Plains Impound Lot all the way over near the Beltway to pick up your car.

        • anonymous

          Exactly right. The city was inconvenienced by having to move your car, but did you a favor by not sending to an impound. During street cleaning, parking is at a premium because half the spots are gone, so you can’t expect them to drive around to find you the perfect spot. They are in the business of towing as many cars as fast as possible, so the street cleaners can do their job.

      • DTH

        I think your beef should be with your friend first and foremost. If someone was watching the car, they should have realized it had been towed when they missed the opportunity to move it and then found it missing. Why didn’t your friend find the car and move it out of the rush hour zone before it racked up days worth of tickets?

      • anon

        the only thing i’m surprised about is that YOU are surprised that your letter is being met with hostility. have you heard anything about the internet before? most commenters are trolls who would never have the guts to say to your face what they can easily type anonymously. anyone posting to PoP is opening themselves up to judgement and ridicule, while possibly getting a few supportive and thoughtful comments. anyway, sucks that your plan fell through and you got those tickets – good luck fighting them.

    • AnonANC1

      Yes? Because they don’t fucking ever clean my street anyways, what the hell am I paying taxes for? I’ve been here a year now, and I see the street sweeper maybe once a month, and it does an awful job.

      • zartan

        wow, you should complain through your ANC and/or councilmember. I live in Bloomingdale and the street sweeper is like clockwork every week in my neighborhood (and does a great job by the way). I failed to move my car once; it was towed onto Rhode Island Avenue once and I got a rush hour parking ticket as a result, which of course I paid since obviously it was my fault for leaving my car in a towing zone and naturally the supply of available slots to tow cars like mine is very tight during the period when street sweeping occurs.

  • 14th Street

    When you say that you “expected” a ticket, does this mean that you intentionally left your car in a street cleaning zone when you went vacation? And you figured that they would write you a ticket, but not bother moving your car to sweep the street (the reason they have street cleaning zones in the first place)? Although it is silly for them to tow you into a rush hour lane, if this is what happened I am tempted to say that you deserved what you got. Next time, park in a garage, or find a space that does not have street sweeping, or any other, restrictions.

  • quincycyclist

    You’re right, they should have towed you to a tow lot and let your car rack up storage fees until you got back.

    It’s not the city’s job to move your car for you when it’s street sweeping day. They have to tow you so they can sweep the street – they can’t sweep if you are in the way. Give a friend a set of keys so they can move your car if you forget and are out of town.

  • Ledroit Park Resident

    I just saw this happen the other day on my block. The person got towed from one side of the street to the other, and got a ticket on consecutive days for parking on the wrong side on a street sweeping day. The best part of this story, though, is that they didn’t tow the car prior to the street being swept, but rather 2 hours after the fact. It seemed to me a case of either poor coordination or genius fundraising on the part of the city.

    • anon

      Or, if it was on a rush hour street, they didn’t get there for the street sweeping, but they did get there in time time to clear the street for the evening rush.

  • Hoodley Park

    Probably still cheaper than paying that daily fee for sitting in a towing lot, right?

  • K_Champagne

    Oh the arrogant entitlement of gentrifiers…you did that to yourself.

  • PLanner

    I will be very interested to hear the results of your contesting this. Please keep us updated.

  • Anonymous

    When I was new to the city, I missed a rush hour restriction, and was towed to a spot with the exact same restriction for more tickets and another tow. I was able to successfully fight the second set of tickets and tow. Of course, all of this occurred during one rush hour period.

  • Oy

    What are you contesting? That they could have punished you in a way that was more palatable to you?

    When you go on vacation, you have the same options everyone else does (a) find a street in your neighborhood that does not have street sweeping – in my neighborhood there are small stretches, usually 1 or 2 blocks that don’t have it, or (b) pay to park at the airport. Build it into the cost of your 10 day vacation…..

  • also anon

    There are tons of posts on PoPville with tips about where to park when you go out of town. I have no idea why you think you’re entitled to knowingly park in a street sweeping zone and then not have to pay any of the ensuing tickets. If you had done even the minimal amount research you could have avoided this.

  • David

    Anyone know how to avoid these street cleaning tickets if traveling for over a week? Or just SOL?

    • 14th Street

      Several straightforward ways to avoid these tickets:

      -Pay to park in a garage
      -Park somewhere that does not have street-sweeping restrictions
      -Ask a friend to move your car as necessary

    • also anon

      I can’t believe people seriously think every single street in DC has street cleaning.

      • Kathleen

        Aren’t those blocks extremely uncommon, though? I’ve lived in my current location for 6 years (Zone 5, on the Shaw/Bloomingdale border) and can’t think of a single block around here that isn’t restricted.

        • rsn

          More uncommon in the middle of the city, but most streets aren’t swept. In zone 5, if your street is swept, you are definitely the exception and not the rule.

        • boybert

          Almost no streets in Zone 3 (or anywhere uptown west of the park, really) have street sweeping.

  • anon

    Maybe I’m just being mean, but I hope they don’t clear your tickets. You were in the wrong and you deserved them. Next time, pay a garage or utilize long term parking if you are flying.

    I recently returned from a trip where I was delayed and got home after midnight and then left for work the next morning at 6:45 completely forgetting to move my car. I sucked it up and payed the street sweeping and rush hour travel lane violation and was more than thankful I didn’t have to retrieve my car from an impound lot. If you don’t want to pay garage prices, which I totally understand since I don’t want to either, you have to accept that these things are going to happen and plan accordingly.

  • andie302

    Something sort of like this happened to me recently. The city towed me directly into a zone for street sweeping the next day. I challenged the tickets and the ones that accrued after I was moved by the city were removed. It was worth the time because it was nearly $200 in tickets. I only came back 48 hours later and all this happened. I wouldn’t disclose that you parked there intentionally. I just stated that I was towed appropriately and didn’t question those tickets when discussing it with the attorney running the proceeding.

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    While I also lack sympathy for the writer, towing the car to a busy commuter street is not very smart of the District. Mass Ave during rush hour is a mess as it is, and towing a car there (when the owner likely doesn’t know where it is) will usually end up blocking a lane and make the commute worse. This has nothing to do with the tickets (which seem justified), but surely there is a better approach the District could take.

    • neighbor

      It’s not like finding parking on P st is easy. Do you expect the truck to circle the block looking for a spot?

      • ash

        Right. And I’m assuming that when they tow your car to a space, they have no idea if you’re at home asleep and you’ll be able to retrieve your car in a couple hours, or if you’re out of town on vacation for the next 10 days. I understand your frustration. I also understand everyone telling you to suck it up, your fault. Of course the best option would be for them to have towed you to an impound lot. But I don’t expect the towers to drive around looking for the best/most convenient spot for the offender’s car (acknowledging that towing a car to a busy street such as Mass Ave isn’t the best option either).

  • joe

    It’s also important to remember that “emergency no parking” signs can restrict parking with just 72 hours advance notice for utility repairs, moving trucks, etc. So, cars could be at risk for towing on an otherwise unrestricted street, making it just as important to give a set of keys to a neighbor or friend if you’re going to be away for more than 3 days.

    • The OP Anon

      It’s only 24 hours notice for a “commercial zone.” We just did that for our moving truck, the signs only had to be up one day in advance.
      Regardless, it’s silly to leave your car on the street for more than a few days without checking on it. If you need to leave the car long term, go park it on the street in Brightwood or Shepherd Park.

  • Mr. Snarlington

    This has happened to me before, I actually went to the Adjudication offices and contested it in person. They dropped all of the tickets that were put on my car after the courtesy tow. Pretty easy fight to win.

  • neighbor

    It seems this has been said enough already, but I feel like piling on. What an arrogant entitled a-hole. First of all, how did you think your street was going to be cleaned? Do you think your neighbors like moving all their cars only to have the sweeper skip the block because there’s a car still parked there (as frequently happens) and deal with garbage until it comes around again? And they probably moved you to Mass because, as you know, parking is tight in that neighborhood. It was likely the only place with a spot at all. If anything you deserve a bigger fine. I hope they can charge you for wasting the DMV’s time with this stupid appeal too.

    • Anonymous

      I have a confession! A couple of weeks ago, I forgot it was Tuesday and didn’t move my car for street sweeping!
      I have another confession! I recently had a flight cancelled for weather and didn’t make it home in time to move my car for street sweeping *and I hadn’t made arrangements in advance just in case.*
      I have another confession! I’ve probably gotten at least a dozen street sweeping tickets over eight years or so for one bit of carelessness or another!
      God I am such an entitled ass hole I don’t know how I stand to live. Seriously, shit happens, nobody is perfect, but man apparently it’s easy to pile onto some random stranger on a blog for wondering why his car was towed to a seemingly poor location.

      • Anon

        Apples and oranges. Your scenarios are very different from the OP’s, as he wrote it. Carelessness or absentmindedness is forgivable because we all are guilty. The whole tone of the OP’s original post (I see now that he did take precautions, the flaming might have been less here if he included that from the beginning) was very arrogant and came off like he just didn’t give a f**k about the fact that he was violating the parking rules. I believe that is what is fueling people’s reactions here.

        • Anonymous

          Perhaps. But I expect most of these commenters have intentionally violated parking rules from time to time. Didn’t feed a meter (or didn’t feed enough). Re-fed a meter in violation of the x-hour-parking limit. Parked closer than 10 feet to a fire hydrant. Parked within five feet of a driveway or alley. The street sweeping violation is of similar variety. In most places, the sweeper just goes around and a spot isn’t swept for a week (since he wasn’t expecting a tow, I’d imagine this includes his street). The outrage seems way out of line for the offense, and it’s not really hard to understand why he would question towing to Massachusetts.

          • 14th Street

            Yes, many of the commenters may have intentionally violated parking rules in the past. What they didn’t do, however, was send a whiny and (apparently) incomplete accounting of the tale, complaining about the fact that they were punished for intentionally breaking the law. The outrage is not just about the original offense, it is about the entitlement and self-righteousness of the entire original post.

          • Anonymous

            It’s like we’ve read different posts. A mild complaint (if that) about towing, but questioning where it was towed to and the (to his view) disproportionate consequences, with some outrage attached to that. Now, I think there have been some reasonable explanation for towing to major arteries in the comments, which is why a post like this can be illuminating.

          • 14th Street

            There was nothing mild about the original post. The tone was snarky, “oh, and for the record, I’m challenging it.” And the OP dragged out the old canard that the only reason the city writes tickets is for revenue, “fairness be damned.”

            I agree that some of the comments about towing to rush hour lanes have been illuminating, but that does not discount the clear revulsion many felt upon reading the original post.

      • 14th Street

        People are piling on because in the original post it sounded like the OP intentionally put his car in a street sweeping zone and left town for 10 days, figuring that the price of the ticket was worth the convenience. There was nothing mentioned about forgetting, delayed flights, carelessness, or anything else. It seemed intentional, and that appeared entitled. Hence the well-deserved piling on.

      • neighbor

        I’ve unintentionally gotten a street sweeping ticket too. But intentionally doing it? And then being indignant about the result afterwords? That’s the problem.
        As a side note; if you have gotten one of those tickets you would have know they come with the “tow requested” box checked. That means you can be towed.

  • ParkViewRes

    Hmm, just this morning I saw a street cleaner going AROUND a car. Often times I see people parked on my street during street sweeping times. So when do they tow? Just randomly?

    On another note, another day where I am going to go home and kiss my parking spot!

  • SomePeopleOnThisSiteSheesh

    You should be able to get most of them wiped by contesting; however, I wouldn’t necessarily call foul play on being towed onto a main arterial. Happened to me as well, last summer. It’s not like they’re going to drive all over your neighborhood looking for a nice gentle safe parking space to put you down in. Their job is to clear the area. They’re going to take you wherever they can, where no one is parked. If you’re going to leave town for a while during the street cleaning months, just take your car to a no-cleaning area like Gtown, Kalorama, etc.

    • The OP Anon

      Georgetown and Kalorama are zoned parking out the wazoo. If you don’t live in that zone, tough luck.

  • Anon X

    Im not going to read all of these comments – so I dont know if this has been covered or not, but you’re not legally allowed to leave your car on the street for 10 days. You dont own the spot, its a shared resource which you were hogging. So, even if it wasnt street sweeping time, you deserved a ticket.

    Presumably, you are an adult. Adults take care of their belongings, they dont just abandon for over a week. Put on your big boy pants and go pay to park it in a long-term lot, at a friends house, or something else. Abandoning it in public is just burdening other people for your own convenience.

    • Anonymous

      The city did away with that restriction sometime ago. You can in fact leave your car for 10 days, absent other restrictions.

    • Anon Spock

      Can you link to the law? I’ve never heard of it.

    • Krampus

      This was discussed on a neighborhood listserv recently (I don’t remember which one). If you’re referring to the law that says you can’t leave your car in the same place for more than 48 hours or something like that I’m pretty sure that doesn’t apply anymore, as Anonymous 3:49 said.

    • sproc

      Over this past winter (non-sweeping months), I left our then-second car in the same street spot for over two months. It was in good repair, all documents up to date, but I just didn’t need it and didn’t want to give up a good spot. No issues at all. FWIW, it’s what finally convinced me to sell it soon after.

    • Anon X

      If they did away with that regulation its just another sign that we are descending further into chaos. Leaving your car on a public street for an extended period of time is abusive. Now, get off my lawn!

  • lulah

    I live just off of 16th, and have seen cars getting towed from my block onto 16th on street sweeping days. My guess is the reasoning for parking cars on these main roadways like 16th and Mass Ave is that they are being moved right after the rush hour restrictions are up and there is ample parking available in what would be an otherwise clogged part of DC. So I don’t think its as much the city trying to screw you over as it was easier for them to dump a bunch of cars in one spot at once.

  • bruno

    A few things to be glad for:
    (a) you knew where they towed your car.
    (b) they did not tow your car to a dog-guarded, chain-link fence immured impoundment lot in the suburbs.

  • JC

    Wow, I am really surprised with all of the hostility here (although I guess I shouldn’t be because this is the internet). I no longer own a car, in part because I did not enjoy headaches of figuring logistics of parking on the street. I definitely could see what happened to the OP happening to me. I never left my car somewhere purposefully expecting to get a ticket (which the OP also did not do), but I also had gotten a handful of tickets over the years for street cleaning or emergency no parking zones without being towed. Like the OP, I would have been surprised to be towed for street cleaning.

    And as for there being so many streets out there without street cleaning—they’re not exactly easy to find if there’s not one in your neighborhood. It’s not like there’s a central list of them or something. When I owned a car I certainly didn’t know of street-cleaning-free blocks nearby.

  • Tommy

    If you came to POP looking for sympathy over a parking ticket, you are in the wrong place. If you want advice, however, contest every ticket. It’s free, easy (it can be done online), and it sounds like you have a strong case for getting at least half of your bill erased for this set of tickets. Also, check the license plate number written on the ticket, and the time the ticket was issued. Parking authority often makes mistakes on these, which means you may not have to pay at all.

  • whovous

    So, when a car is left in a street-sweeping zone, where it inconveniences the street sweeper and leads to a somewhat dirtier neighborhood, it gets towed. But when it is left on one of the busiest streets in town, where it inconveniences thousands of people for days, it gets tickets?

    I don’t really care about whether the OP successfully contests some of the tix or not. But when the car was parked in a really outrageous location, why didn’t it get towed? Is there some rule that says once you get towed once you cannot get towed again?

    • Yes, it’s called “Tow Away Zone” signage.

  • Update from OP: “WUSA9 picked up on it and interviewed me this evening about what happened. And lo and behold, when they asked the city for comment about my situation, the city immediately voided my Mass. Ave. tickets”

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Story on WUSA9

    I have noticed stories on Popville often pop up on the network’s FB feed. Any ideas who else is monitoring Popville?

    • What do you mean pops up on their facebook feed – like PoPville stories or stories they read here and make their own?

      As to who monitors? That’s easy – every local media outlet (tv, print, online, radio) and most government agencies :)


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