D.C. visitor parking passes: What you need to know

WASHINGTON — A WTOP employee who received three parking tickets over her visitor parking pass this month has offered some valuable lessons for people living in Maryland and Virginia with those passes.

Montgomery County resident Samantha Loss uses a visitor parking pass (VPP) covering the area between Cleveland Park and McLean Gardens.  She places the VPP on the dashboard of her vehicle, which caused her to get three parking tickets this month.

The Department of Public Works officer charged that the permit was displayed, but that the date on the VPP was not visible.  Each ticket carries a $30 fine.

“I had a suspicion from the very beginning that the tickets were nonsense because on top of the visitor parking pass there is a QR code.  There is also a number and at the end it says ‘-15’.  I was pretty sure the piece on the top had all the information that they would have needed,” says Loss.

The bottom of the VPP lists the expiration date as Dec. 31, 2015.  But since the top of the pass also includes the year, the expiration date could be inferred.

DDOT spokeswoman Michelle Phipps-Evans confirms that the new VPPs include the neighborhood where the pass is valid, the calendar year and a randomly generated eight character code at the top.  The QR code is also added to “effectively work with enforcement personnel to reduce the possibility of fraud and misuse,” according to a DDOT FAQ page.

DDOT changed the layout of the VPPs in 2015 in an effort to combat counterfeiting and other abuses.  DPW photographs posted with each ticket also show the top of the VPP.

However, DPW tells WTOP that the tickets were valid.

“The pass, as it appears in the vehicle’s windshield, does not clearly show the expiration date. Our parking officers are trained to look for the date, which appears at the bottom of the pass. They do not interpret the DDOT code at the top of the pass. Also, the upper part of the pass where the DDOT code is located can be duplicated, but the lower part where the expiration date line is located has a hologram, which cannot be duplicated. That is why we need to see the entire pass,” DPW spokeswoman Linda Grant says in a statement.

But the DC Department of Motor Vehicles disagreed with this conclusion.  Hearing Examiner Christopher Collins reviewed the three tickets on Thursday afternoon and found that the VPPs display the date on both the top and bottom, and therefore, the tickets were not accurate.  Collins dismissed all three tickets.

“I think that DPW should educate the people in parking enforcement about where to look for the proper information and explain to them that there is more than one location to look to determine whether a pass is current and valid,” says Loss.

The Department of Public Works officer alleged that  the date on the VPP was not visible. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)
The Department of Public Works officer alleged that the date on the VPP was not visible. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Most DPW officers were recently outfitted with new smartphones to replace older ticket machines, which Loss points out could be used to easily interpret and process the QR code to prevent fraud.

But she also believes this experience is a good lesson for her and other people living in Maryland and Virginia with VPPs.

“Make sure the VPPs are completely visible, that they don’t slide down your dashboard, and they’re not covered up by anything.  Make sure that the entire thing can be seen through the windshield or you run the risk of getting a ticket,” says Loss.

DC Municipal Regulation 18-2414 has information on your responsibilities regarding visitor parking passes.

If you think you’re the victim of a bogus speed camera, red light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Send us your case along with any documentation to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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