Contesting a DC parking ticket online

Oh, what a glorious world we live in. I just contested a ridiculous parking ticket entirely online. I’m not sure how I got the ticket – I never actually saw a ticket on the car. I just got an email telling me that the fine was about to double. So I responded.

I never received the paper ticket – my first notification of this ticket was the email that the penalty was doubling. However, I did not commit the violation “STOP/STND IN AM RUSH”. Attached please find photos of the signs on both sides of the street. The ticket was issued on 3/29/2011, which you’ll note is a Tuesday. According to the signs, there are absolutely no rush hour restrictions on parking on the 1400 block of Harvard St NW on Tuesdays. So it is not possible that this ticket is valid.

I attached two pictures. North side parkingSouth side parking
I don’t know how I got the ticket. But I don’t think I’m paying it. I’ll let you know if the DMV agrees.

Only in DC

Originally uploaded by thetejon

Saw this on our block of Harvard today. Fancy BMW 745, polished, heavy tint on the windows, Maryland tags, parked in front of a RPP Zone 1 Only sign. The sign, if you don’t click through to read, says, “POLICE – Official business”. I have no idea if this is a legitimate thing, or something the guy printed on his computer, but clearly parking enforcement decided to ticket him and let the DMV sort it out.

Contesting a parking ticket – my car is diplomatic

I got a parking ticket the other day. Around the corner from us on 15th Street is the back of the Mexican Embassy. There is some parking there reserved from 7-4 weekdays for “Diplomatic cars”. We came home after 4, couldn’t find parking, and so we parked there. I meant to move the car, but I forgot. I am, of course, contesting the ticket.

To whom it may concern: I am writing to contest a parking ticket, citation #[unimportant], which I received on August 7th, 2009, for “DISOBYNG OFFICL SIGN”. The sign reads, “Diplomatic cars only” between 7AM and 4PM. Princeton’s online WordNet defines diplomacy as “subtly skillful handling of a situation” ( It then follows that a diplomatic car would be one which displays or performs this skillful handling. As such, it is difficult to argue that my car, a 2006 Mazda 3, is not diplomatic. There are only two situations in which the car ever finds itself – parked or being driven. It takes no skill to remain parked, and therefore the definition easily applies to any car. And anyone who has ever driven a 2006 Mazda 3, especially the manual transmission, can attest that the car is very skillful. It handles very well, accelerates quickly, and gets good gas mileage. At no time does the parking sign mention the need for any sort of credentials identifying the car as diplomatic, nor does it require the owner of the car to possess credentials. Therefore, by the definition above, my car is in fact diplomatic, and not in violation of the parking restrictions. Thank you very much for your time. Me

The sign is vague. Who’s to say what “diplomatic” means? Unfortunately, in this case, it’s the soul-less, humor-less parking adjudicator who will decide. I can’t say I like my chances . . .

The boot doesn’t work

The ridiculous practice of “booting” cars with too many tickets has to stop. Either tow them or let them be. Today is street cleaning day on the main parking side of our block of Harvard. That means that there is no parking at all from 7am to 630pm. This is because Harvard is a pretty busy commuting cut-through, and it’s really helpful to have two lanes. But there aren’t two lanes today, because someone decided to boot a van on the open side of the street. I truly don’t understand the logic behind this. You are now making traffic worse. Other times people get courtesy tows, an absurd waste of time and money, but we can’t tow the van to the impound lot? I’ve said before that booting is an explicit admission that parking restrictions in DC are purely for the city’s financial gain, not an attempt to keep traffic flowing. This is absolutely infuriating. And, to make matters worse, another car, as I walked by this morning, had decided that if the van was parked there, it must be okay. And the really funny thing is that this car is likely to get towed. Ahh, DC. How I love you.

Move over, Sean, we’ve got a new jouster

This one happened across the pond, not in DC, but this story is nearly as good as our local hero who beat DC parking enforcement. They decided to change some parking rules in (near?) London. To do this, they paint double lines on the street right next to the curb. This is in stark contrast to the ridiculous signs they put up here in DC, or sometimes the total lack of markings, requiring you to just know that you can’t park within five feet of an alley. So this woman’s car was parked legally before the unpublicized change to the rules. After the change, she would be illegal. So what did they do? They lifted her car off the ground, painted the lines, and put the car back down. Parking enforcement then came by and towed her for parking illegally. The article linked above has an awesome picture. She eventually got her MP involved and was refunded the 2400 pound fine (I think the exchange rate is better now than it was last time I was over there, but that’s still nearly $4000). By the way, Express, feel free to quote me again, but try to get it right this time.

This man is my hero

Here is a story of a man who beat the DC parking enforcement machine.

“Even when there were shootings on my block last year, I wasn’t this disappointed in my city,” he wrote in one protest email. “D.C. effectively stole my automobile.”

After the city gave him a “courtesy tow” to an illegal parking spot, lost his ticket contestation documents, and booted and towed his car, he actually got them to return the car to a spot near his house. Then he had them do it again, because the first time they brought him the wrong car. I talk a lot about my small victories over DC parking enforcement, but this puts me to shame. I had lunch with his wife on Friday – she works with my wife, and a group was going out to watch some basketball, so I joined them. Had I known her husband was a giant among those of us who joust at the windmills of parking enforcement, I would have bought her a beer.

It takes four signs to explain the parking

Originally uploaded by thetejon

I took this photo the other day while I was up on the roof with the heater repair guys. I couldn’t hear the bulk of the conversation, but I believe the woman in the brown coat, one of my neighbors, was complaining first to a parking enforcement officer, then to a police officer, and then to this woman, a parking enforcement supervisor, about tickets being written. During the winter, they suspend street cleaning. They don’t change the signs, they just assume you know that, from some arbitrary date in November to some equally arbitrary date in March, you are free to ignore the no parking signs for street cleaning. Try to find out what those dates are. I dare you. However, it seems you can only ignore some of the signs. Usually, the south side of the street is two hour parking for all out-of-zone cars. On street cleaning days, it changes to DC residential parking permit holders only. So the parking enforcement official ticketed all the Maryland and Virginia drivers on the south side. I’m guessing that my neighbor was arguing that these signs don’t apply when street cleaning is suspended. I don’t think she’s going to win this argument, but she did leave notes on all the ticketed cars. I don’t know what they said. I would have told them to contest the tickets by mail, which won’t do any good, but might make them feel better. Still, it is pretty absurd that it takes four signs to explain the parking. Doesn’t this suggest to someone that the parking restrictions might be overly complicated?

DC parking ticket adjudicator lacks sense of humor, soul

I finally contested a parking ticket and lost. That puts my record at 5-1, which is still pretty good. And technically this ticket was the wife’s, so I probably could still call myself undefeated. In any event, DC’s parking enforcement extortion officers got us for parking within five feet of an alley. This rule is especially absurd because DC stubbornly refuses to paint curbs red to indicate that parking is not allowed. This is, of course, because they want you to get a ticket. It’s certainly not because the city cares where you park. Look at the boot system. That is a system designed for maximum revenue and driver inconvenience, not for keeping our streets clear of illegally parked cars. If they really cared where you parked, they’d tow you for violations, not lock your car in place. Anyway, they didn’t buy my argument. And it was a weak argument, I admit. But it was civil and in complete sentences, so I thought maybe they’d give me the benefit of the doubt.

To Whom It May Concern: I am writing to contest a parking ticket, citation #[unimportant], that I received on Monday, July 21st, 2008, for parking less than five feet from an alley. In my haste to move the car because the ticket indicated that towing was requested, I did not notice that the ticket was for parking on the 1300 block of Harvard St NW. The car was on the 1400 block, just across the street from my house, where I’ve parked numerous times in the past. I realize that you can’t just take me at my word. I have lived on Harvard St for about a year and a half. In that time, I have parked on blocks besides the 1400 block fewer than a dozen times, and never on a Monday. Every Monday at 6:30PM, you can see all the residents of the block who don’t have off-street parking move their cars from the north side of the street to the south side. The south side is usually closed to parking during rush hour, but after 6:30 it’s open, and on Tuesdays, the north side is scheduled for street cleaning. So the minute the south side opens up to parking, those of us who live here move our cars. At 7:31PM, when the ticket was issued, the south side of the street had been open to parking for only an hour. That side of the street never fills up until much later in the evening, so there would never be a reason for me to park on the 1300 block of Harvard rather than my block (1400 block), as the ticket stated. I have to admit that I’m a little paranoid about my car being ticketed, and this causes me to pay a lot of attention to parking on our street and to ticketed cars. Every day, there is a car parked in the spot where I received the ticket. Some of these cars are within five feet of the alley, and some are not. But not once have I seen a car parked there with a ticket that wasn’t clearly violating some other parking rule. For example, during the day a residential parking permit is required, and frequently I’ve seen cars with VA or MD tags with tickets. I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but if this particular violation was enforced with any sort of regularity, I would have become aware of it. But it is hardly reasonable to expect me to assume that behavior I see go unpunished every day is anything but legal. Further, the ticket incorrectly cites me for parking on a block where my car was not parked. I live, work, and pay taxes in the District, and I endeavor at all times to park legally. For these reasons and those above, I would greatly appreciate it if you would forgive this parking ticket. I am also curious – the ticket itself states that I have 60 days to contest, which I am timely doing now. However, I subsequently received a letter indicating the ticket doubled because I did not answer in 30 days. If it is decided that I do in fact owe money for this ticket, I would appreciate that the cost of the ticket revert back to $20 since I have answered within the 60 day window. Thank you very much for your time. Sincerely, [A frustrated DC resident]

They also only give you five days from the postmark on your rejection letter to pay the ticket. I’m inclined to write a check just so I can write something unpleasant in the memo field, but I probably shouldn’t. They did, however, only charge $20, so I guess that’s some sort of partial victory.