“And it seems people can’t find their cars because weeks later and they are still here!”

by Prince Of Petworth October 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm 25 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I live a block off of H Street NE. The city has been towing cars either blocking street car tracks or parked in street sweeping spots to our block and leaving them here. And it seems people can’t find their cars because weeks later and they are still here! Also, a few blocks away at my kids’ school, there is a car that was towed from one tow zone to another and now has a stack of tickets on the windshield. I’m certain that these people aren’t intentionally leaving their cars for weeks at a time… including with an open window in the rain. I’m pretty sure this happened to a couple in the spring. They reported the car stolen only to find out it was towed.”

  • Anonymous

    You would think that DC Police would have access to the Parking Police system to query if car has been ticketed; the ticket has both the plate number and location of violation. Wait that would be wishful thinking!

    • textdoc


    • Foolish_Twice

      If you call the number on the street sweeping signs, they will transfer you DPW and they will tell you where your car is located. I’ve had to call them twice, so I know that it works. They try to tow it within walking distance, which I like much better than taking a cab to Blue Plains. No one wants to go Blue Plains

      • rosedaleresident

        I have had this happen before. They had the wrong location for my car. It took about a week to eventually find it. DPW is not the most judicious in the way they handle things and it would not surprise me if one or two of these cars is the victim of DPW having the wrong location for a towed vehicle.

  • Anonymous

    Yes! This is happening on my block right now. Why can’t they tow them to a dedicated lot and follow up with the owner of record through the DMV?

    • DC Car Owner

      Dedicated tow lot is all the way down by blue plains so any wrecker can burn a lot of time in transit. From a “customer” point of view I’d rather go find my car after a courtesy tow, especially considering they don’t charge for that or for storage.

      • llsndvs

        They definitely charge for a courtesy tow – have had to pay that extra $$$ myself.

  • anon

    I’ve always considered the towing of vehicles to other nearby street spaces to be a very generous and reasonable aspect of parking enforcement in this city. You know what really sucks? Having to go far away to retrieve your car from some desolate lot. Those lots usually charge a lot per day, too.
    But, if people can’t pay the bare minimum of attention to their publicly-stored cars to take advantage of this municipal gift, maybe it’s time DC went ahead an towed to lots like other jurisdictions.

    • stacksp

      My guess is that the amount of time that it takes to physically tow cars to a lot or a junkyard

    • stacksp

      My guess is that in the amount of time that it takes to physically tow cars to a lot or a junkyard, the city can ticket tow many more cars which is why they do it the way that they do in addition to the logistical nightmare that it might and apparently does cause

      • anon

        This work is usually outsourced to contractors with a profit motive. If there’s room for more two trucks to capture more vehicles, the market will resolve that issues. This actually works too well; in Arlington, towing under false pretenses is pretty common, and people usually just end up paying.

    • anon29

      It’s called a “relocation” tow and I was, as you describe “fortunate”. The tow truck driver put me in a spot that had the no parking flyers up for a mover and had it been more peak hours (it was late in the evening), I would have been ticked and towed again. So, before you assume you understand how it works and how “lucky” we are, realize that as everything else in this city, the workers don’t give a rats A$$.

    • Anon

      “Courtesy” tows are complete garbage. I had one happen where the tow truck company didn’t create a record of towing my car, let alone saying where it was, so I had to report it stolen. I then proceeded to draw up a quarter-mile radius and go down every street in that radius to find it.

      The next day, I find it, only to discover that my car had been side-swiped with the side mirror broken off. After waiting even longer for MPD (CSI and all!) to arrive to clear the case (as I had reported the car stolen), I’m finally able to drive my car away. Surprisingly, the $200 in fines that I had accumulated seemed to never make it into the system after I complained to the officers.

      “Generous and reasonable” my arse.

  • stacksp

    They dont actually physically tow that much any more. They ticket you for the tow and move you to a legitimate parking space (at the time). They put the responsibility on the vehicle owner to call the tow dispatch and ask for the location of your vehicle. Not sure why people are waiting days to find their cars but Im sure it happens as evident by the post.

    I know this from experience.

  • FridayGirl

    Tbh, I wouldn’t put it past people who were irresponsible enough to park in a questionable location to not rush to find their cars after they were towed.

    • textdoc

      You don’t have to be “irresponsible” to park in a location where you subsequently get towed — all it takes is being unfamiliar with the block in question and not looking carefully enough for signs, or seeing the signs but misreading them.
      Towed From a Rush-Hour No-Parking Zone in Adams Morgan Shortly After Moving There in 2002

      • anon

        Yeah, a few years ago they towed all the cars in an area on the Columbia Rd. Adams Morgan/Kalorama near the Hilton on T St and Connecticut when the white house correspondents dinner was going on so all the black suburbans chauffeuring people the party would have a place to sit and wait. (Nice use of our tax dollars.) No warning, and they didn’t do this in previous, or subsequent, years.

  • Smittty

    They can call DC and they will tell them where the car has been towed to. But yeah, they’ve towed me to a place where tickets accumulate. I stupidly forgot to move my car off the street when I went on vacation for a week. They towed my car for street sweeping but instead of moving it to another residential street parking spot (which are always plentiful during the day in my hood) they moved me way out of the way (6 or 7 blocks) to a meter where I kept getting tickets all week. Awesome.

    • Emma

      FWIW, I’ve successfully challenged tickets I got due to the location I was towed to. (Towed for street sweeping to a no standing/parking during rush hour zone, then towed again during rush hour. Since this all happened in the span of a few hours while I was at work, and there was really no way I could have known to move my car from the rush hour zone, I paid the street sweeping tow and challenged the others. They let me off, maybe because they didn’t want the bother.)

  • Ally

    To their credit, there are some pretty good bars around there…

  • Karin

    I’m wondering if this might be the cause of a car on our block. Not to hijack this thread, but I’m also a few blocks off H Street NE and we’re experiencing the “car left for weeks” problem. There’s been a vehicle parked in the same spot for MONTHS now with a few parking tickets that are stacked on the windshield – but they’re apparently paid, as I looked up the plates once a while back.

    I placed a request on 311 for an abandoned vehicle, but they replied by saying it didn’t qualify. Are there solutions to this apparent problem?

  • Karen

    I broke my ankle at the beginning of the month and a colleague had to drive me home. I didn’t go out for a few days and didn’t drive when I did as I was taking some serious drugs. During that time, they erected some Emergency No Parking signs because of some word DC water was doing across the street, right where my car was parked. Luckily, they didn’t give the full 72 hours, so they did the courtesy tow, but not ticketed. Given the broken ankle, I was not up for wandering around looking for the car, so I called DC 311 and they told me the block it was parked on. I hobbled over and it was in a legal spot. When my parents came over the weekend, I had them move it back to my block. There are lots of legitimate reasons why someone might get towed that are not about irresponsible behavior. I can also see it happening with people who travel a lot.

  • anon

    I wonder if there’s any explicit outlining of the rights/responsibilities regarding street parking in the city. I’d be fine with making street parking too burdensome for it to be anyone’s primary method of car storage.

    • HM

      I can understand the sentiment of wanting to incentivize car-free living, but it should not come at the expense of people who already struggle to afford to live here. Are you OK with making the District even less livable for people with less income, as a trade off? More stringent rules and more costs for street parking are only a great solution for people who can afford a place with off-street parking, or to pay for a parking spot/garage. The cost of living here is plenty high already, and the street parking rules in DC are plenty burdensome already (e.g. Frequent risk of being towed). It is not easy to have a car in most neighborhoods of the District. Some of us still need one, even the eco-conscious fans of walkability.

  • Brian OConnor

    Shot in the dark…Any chance anyone is currently in the “cannot seem to confirm if my car has been stolen or towed” phase after parking on W Street, NW at 12th Street, NW late last week? Looks like an “Emergency Zone” situation earned me a ticket on 10/21…and now no one has any record of where the car went.


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