DC parking signs leaving many drivers confused and frustrated

It's always a struggle to find a legal parking spot on any street in the District. Sometimes even when you think you have parked legally, it turns out you have not. The reason? Parking signs in D.C. can be very confusing. FOX 5 Chief Investigative Reporter Emily Miller talked to people who say the signs need to be fixed.

Parking in D.C. is always a struggle -- especially to find a legal parking spot on the street and just trying to avoid the high prices in parking lots. Even when you think it's legal, sometimes it's not. The reason? Parking signs can be so confusing.

You know how exciting it is when you find a parking spot on the street? However, it always takes a minute to read the signs to make sure it's legal at that time. But a lot of times, you really can't figure out the signs. And if you interpret them wrong, you'll come back to a ticket or even worse, your car gets towed.

"The most law abiding citizen in this city can't avoid getting a ticket because the signage is so confusing," said D.C. driver Anneke Green.

She recently parked on K Street at 6:30 p.m. The sign says pay to park on the left side. Another sign says commercial parking only until 6:30 p.m. A parking enforcement officer saw her park and warned her.

"You'll get a ticket if you park here," Green said the enforcement officer told her.

Green pointed out the signs to the officer.

"And he said, ‘Well, the signs might be wrong. I'm just telling you, if you park there, you will get a ticket,'" Green told us.

While we were shooting this interview, Green asked another parking enforcement officer about the parking spot. He told her she could park at the spot after 6:30 p.m.

Another viewer got a ticket on 9th Street in Northwest D.C. even though she paid by phone with the Parkmobile app. Sixty percent of drivers now use the smartphone app to park in the District.

To pay by phone, you have to find the green Pay by Phone Parking Parkmobile sign and find your parking zone. However, some signs don't list the parking zone on it, but instead say, "Located on the meter."

But on this street, there are no more meters!

At a nearby parking kiosk, the zones are supposed to be posted on there. But in this case, there were no green stickers.

Finally, the driver got a zone number off a sign across the street. But many Parkmobile parking zones are different on each side of the street. That's why she paid, but still got a ticket.

From his office that overlooks 12th Street, Dan Danner has been watching cars get ticketed and towed every day.

"I've seen them tow eight cars in a two-hour span between 12:30 and 2:30 [p.m.] in one single day," he told us. "So tow trucks drive around the block waiting."

Danner said the problem is with the signs in the middle of the block.

The bottom sign says you have to pay to park from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then after 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.

But there is no information about parking during midday.

So, if you don't get out of your car and walk back towards F Street, you will miss a sign that is only posted in one place.

"This one sign that happens to have smaller type than all the rest says no [parking] from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. -- you can be towed because it's a food truck area and people don't see that," Danner said.

So that is when people get ticketed and towed -- midday.

Danner has been taking photos of the constant towing outside his window. Sometimes he even goes outside to help people.

"They come back and say, 'Why?' And you have to go through this whole thing and look at the signs," said Danner.

We saw that for ourselves on Wednesday. One woman came back to her spot, looked all around for her car, but it was gone. We had seen it towed less than a half hour earlier.

"It is at least confusing," said Danner. "At the worst, it's a conflict and a trap zone to get them. And that's sad."

As for those missing zone signs for the app, a spokesman for Parkmobile told me that it's up to the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) to put up the zone signs. In fact, DDOT does all the parking signs in the city.

I asked DDOT spokesman, Keith St. Clair, about the specific spots we showed in this story.

He said that DDOT officials went to all three sites this week, and they are working on solutions in a "reasonable time frame." Of course, we will update you when we know that those signs are fixed.

St. Clair also said that DDOT is committed to addressing the issue of conflicting signs in the city. He said that anyone who sees the confusing sign should contact them. You can either call 311 or go online at seeclickfix.com/washington.

St. Clair also encouraged people to tell D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about parking signs. You can contact her on Twitter @MayorBowser or on her Facebook page.

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