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Parking time limit? Moving car won't save you in D.C.

Friday - 1/31/2014, 9:03am  ET

dc wards (Courtesy of D.C.)
Here's a map of D.C.'s wards, which coincide with the parking zones. Click for a larger version. (Courtesy of D.C.)

WASHINGTON - Suppose you find street parking with a two-hour limit. You're grabbing lunch, picking up groceries and running a few errands.

Halfway through the to-do list, you run back to the car to avoid going over the two-hour limit. But just where can you move it legally? In the District, drivers without a certain permit may need to leave the given ward completely to legally park on the street.

"It doesn't matter if you come out after two hours and move it to another spot in the zone," says Mary Cheh, chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment. "You're still two hours in the entire zone."

That's the part many drivers -- especially those who live outside the District -- may not understand.

Moving a car around the corner, while remaining in the same Residential Parking Permit zone, is a violation and susceptible to a ticket.

The boundaries of the RPP zones coincide with ward boundaries.

"Sometimes people are surprised because they think, 'Oh my goodness, I only have two hours, so I'll go out and move it up the block,'" Cheh says. "That won't count; you'll still get a ticket."

The more complicated situation involves parking at locations far apart but in the RPP zone. By the letter of the law, a parking enforcement officer could write a ticket -- but District officials say that's unlikely.

The parking rules aren't new -- they've been in place for decades. But the area is attracting thousands of new residents each year, and a full understanding of parking regulations is lacking.

The RPP zones are designed to preserve spaces for drivers in their own neighborhoods. For businesses, parking limits and meters ensure customer turnover. (It's not lawful to refill the meter after the zone maximum has been reached.)

But that does create complications for people coming from out of town or a different ward -- no matter how much they plan to spend in the local economy.

"If you go to a movie, you may very well be there more than two hours," Cheh says. "If you go for dinner and a movie, you're certainly going to be there more than two hours."

Parking is, as ever, a sensitive and polarizing topic. On Wednesday, a council committee heard testimony from District residents who want parking enforcement officers to be more aggressive in writing tickets to drivers who aren't from the neighborhood.

Conversely, if drivers worry about being ticketed for shopping, playing or even working too long in an RPP zone, they may not come at all, Cheh says.

If I park in an RPP zone without a permit and I move my car to another space after the two-hour limit, will I still get a ticket?

Yes. The two-hour restriction pertains to the entire zone, not just the particular space.

May a District resident of one zone park for more than two hours in another zone?

No. A permit is only valid in the zone for which it has been issued.

How are the RPP zones established?

The boundaries of the eight zones coincide with existing ward boundaries.

Read more on residential parking rules in D.C.

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