WaPo has a piece noting that one reason that traffic in Washington, DC is so horrific is a near-total lack of enforcement of traffic regulations, notably prohibitions against double parking. Indeed, whenever I’ve driven downtown, I’ve encountered not just delivery vehicles but concession vendors parking in travel lanes.

One would think this would be an easy problem to solve:

Dan Tangherlini, the District’s transportation director, said he’s well aware of the problems that parking scofflaws create.

“We have to really ensure that we’re operating at peak capacity every day,” Tangherlini said. With city streets already overburdened, he said, “you have these enormous ripple effects when someone takes a lane.”

Other cities have targeted double-parking. Boston increased the number of loading zones in its shopping districts during the morning hours, when deliveries are especially frequent.

New York added parking meters to its delivery zones in midtown Manhattan, charging $2 for the first hour and higher prices for each subsequent hour. That encourages turnover and reduces the need for delivery trucks to double-park next to curb lanes jammed with trucks parked all day. Three years ago, San Francisco doubled fines for double-parking on major bus routes during rush hours and began immediately towing private vehicles parked in loading zones.

So far, the District has done little to fix the problem. Two years ago, the city spent $2 million on 25 tow trucks for 24-hour parking enforcement. However, half of them sit idle at any one time because the city didn’t budget enough for drivers.


District police and city parking officers share responsibility for enforcement. D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said he doesn’t have enough officers to dedicate a unit full time to parking violations. While patrol officers can enforce parking rules, he said, he doesn’t mind if they forgo ticketing or towing violators.

“If your goal is to clear up traffic and if they comply and move the car, I don’t have a problem with them not writing a ticket,” Ramsey said.

The D.C. Department of Public Works has more than tripled the number of parking enforcement officers in the past two years, said spokeswoman Mary Myers. However, a $24,000 annual salary and requirements to work in all weather and sometimes around angry motorists create a high turnover rate. One-fifth of the 236 positions are vacant.

“We’re trying to cover 1,100 miles of streets around-the-clock with somewhere over 200 parking officers,” said Leslie Hotaling, the city’s public works director. “That’s a lot spread thin.”

What’s bizarre is that DC has more police officers per capita than any major city and is much more compressed geographically.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.