When meter maids die, they go to the 7th circle of hell
June 28, 2007
When my wife is out of town (which is most weeks, Monday through Thursday) I usually drive to work because I have to go home in the middle of the day to take our puppy outside. I used to take public transportation every day, but over the past year I’ve gotten to know the DC parking situation intimately. And by intimately, I mean I’ve singlehandedly solved any DC police officer pension underfunding problems by paying scads of parking tickets.
So I’ve realized that there is a hierarchy of parking spots around my building and, I’m sure, in DC as a whole. Let me enlighten you.
DC Parking Spot Hierarchy (Ranked from least desirable to most desirable)
- One-hour parking spots – not only are they 25 cents per 15 minutes, which is the worst (and most frequent) value for street parking in the city, but if you work in an office, you’re almost certain to get a ticket parking there. First of all, you’re never going to be able to get down every hour to feed the meter, and second of all, since someone decided those spaces were important enough to rate a one hour designation, they’re certain to be heavily patrolled by the meter maids looking to give out the dreaded “sure there’s time on the meter, but the car’s been here longer than the alloted maximum time” ticket.
- Two-hour parking spots in patrolled locations - all parking spots with like designations are not created equal. Just around my building’s block, there are two streets where you’ll get tickets on a regular basis for being 10 minutes late to the meter, while on the other two streets you can be up to 30 minutes late or more without a significant chance of being ticketed. Even which side of a street you’re on sometimes matters.
- Two-hour parking spots in lightly-patrolled locations – see above.
- Metered spots with defective meters – There’s this one spot on a street next to my building that is rated a 20 minutes per quarter meter with a 2-hour limit. But it’s my favorite spot and I try to get it every day for several reasons. First, it’s a lightly patrolled area where I’ve never gotten a ticket for feeding the meter and going over 2 hours (feeding the meter is far easier than searching for a new spot every two hours). Second, it gives you 30 minutes rather than 20 minutes per quarter (bonus!). Third, and most importantly, whatever broke the meter also reset the maximum time. I’ve literally never found the upper limit to how much time you can put on the meter, and I’ve gone up to four hours. God forbid some “good samaritan” reports this meter, it’s the most convenient deal I’ve found in DC street pay parking.
- Zoned non-pay parking – there’s no meters at these spots, but if you don’t have DC plates with the correct zone representation there’s a two hour maximum. The only reason these aren’t the best spots in the city is that it’s completely spotty whether these are patrolled or not. I’ve seen tickets in some areas, and there are other areas where I’ve never gotten a ticket despite not moving my car all day. Kind of a crapshoot.
- The perfect spot – Did you ever think your day would be made by something as simple as a parking spot? Neither did I…until I started driving to work. The perfect spot can take several forms – maybe the meter was busted off by vandals, perhaps there’s space between two diagonal parking meters for an extra car to fit, maybe the city left too much room between the first parallel parking meter and the sign. In any case, the perfect spot always has the same aspect: you can leave your car there and walk away for the entire day. No feeding meters, no moving the car, it’s blissful.