Greater Greater Washington

Parking


With the streetcar, H Street will need clear signs

For streetcars to move through traffic, rail tracks have to be free of parked cars. To keep them that way, the rules of the road must be crystal clear for drivers.


Streetcar parking zone sign, Seattle. Photo by BeyondDC.

Last week DDOT used a truck for a test-run of the H Street streetcar route, and because of illegally parked cars, the going was slow. But other cities with similar streetcar layouts, like Seattle and Portland, have had a lot of success keeping their lanes clear. How do they do it?

With constant and clear communication to drivers, like the sign pictured here, and with strong enforcement.

Any time you take pavement away from cars, there's a learning curve. Drivers accustomed to doing as they please have to change behavior. That's to be expected, and it doesn't happen on the first day you run your first test truck. But most drivers do fall in line, once they understand what's changed. That's how streetcars have worked in other cities.

And if all else fails, ticketing cameras mounted on streetcars, like in San Francisco, would solve any remaining problem in a hurry.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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Arg. That sign shows a big pet peeve of mine - when designing signs, does no one take into account where the bolt will be? And the rust? I cannot count how many signs I've seen where important details are covered by bolts, or worse, the rust from the bolt.

by JDC Esq on Nov 25, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

What kind of moron parks on a rail track?

by Hadur on Nov 25, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

I just thought of an invention, which I now dedicate to the public: automatic or semiautomatic (operator controlled image capturing ) ticketing cameras on the front of each streetcars. No escape.

by NE John on Nov 25, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

How about signs like this for the cycletracks?

by engrish_major on Nov 25, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

The biggest worry here is an entirely underwhelming streetcar debut in 2014. A slow system with only 2 cars would be another government-managed self-inflicted disaster; DC streetcar could quickly morph into some sort of horror trolley full of drunks and tourists.

by Ben on Nov 25, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Hadur

I can kind of understand it. If the tracks have been there for years without anything using them (which they have been in certain areas), unless you pay close attention, you may not realize that they're about to start using the tracks. Or, you may know they'll be used soon, but also know that they aren't being used yet, and you are unaware that it is currently illegal to park there. I'll bet that there are a lot of things that are obvious to you that aren't obvious to everyone else, and there things that are obvious to many other people that you are unaware of.

by David on Nov 25, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

Just ticketing vehicles that block the streetcar's path won't help. Many delivery companies and individuals just see tickets as a cost of doing business or of owning a car in the city. DDOT should have tow trucks (including those capable of towing large delivery trucks) at the ready for at least the first 30 days until word gets out. Once people realize that blocking the streetcar will get your vehicle impounded behavior will start to change. This should happen for bike lanes and cycletracks too IMO.

by ontarioroader on Nov 25, 2013 2:29 pm • linkreport

The solution here is easy. Hire the meanest, vilest, least ethical towing shark you can find in the area to enforce proper parking. Require that they take a picture before they tow and allow them to charge insane fees. Let them do their thing for a couple of month, give in to the pressure to fire them, and then threaten to bring them back every time it gets too bad.

by Jasper on Nov 25, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

I like the way Jasper thinks.

by JDC Esq on Nov 25, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

"What kind of moron parks on a rail track?"

Not on the track -- the trains are going to be wider than the tracks. If you're having trouble with parallel parking -- especially if you're squeezing into a tight space -- you might end too far from the curb.

Honestly, they ought to have something like the treads on a highway that warn you when you've drifted over the line.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Nov 25, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

@ Ben

"A slow system with only 2 cars would be another government-managed self-inflicted disaster"

Too late! It's already 2 years behind schedule, millions over budget, and still unfinished. Sounds like a disaster to me.

by Burd on Nov 25, 2013 3:13 pm • linkreport

I completely understand having small fines for some parking infractions like having an expired meter - that's usually not deliberate. Your meeting runs late, there's a long line at the post office, etc, and you get back to your car 5 minutes after your time ran out. Happens to everyone. No big deal.

But everybody on the planet knows that double parking is illegal, and everybody on the planet should be able to tell that parking in a cycle track is illegal. I'm fine with the first ticket being $50 or so, just in case for some reason someone is so stupid as to not know that you can't do that. But I'd like to see the second ticket be $1,000, the third ticket be $5,000 and the fourth ticket result in automatic forfeiture of your vehicle. Parking enforcement isn't writing these tickets by hand anymore - it's all on computers that print the ticket that should be able to tell what other tickets have been on that plate in the last year, so setting up an escalating fine structure is totally doable. I have absolutely had it with people being rude and deliberately inconveniencing everyone else in the world just because they feel like it. If streetcars or bike lanes are ever going to work, it needs to be PAINFUL to those who will not comply.

by ShawGuy on Nov 25, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

it's all on computers that print the ticket that should be able to tell what other tickets have been on that plate in the last year

Yeah. Should. But the four instances in which I've been erroneously mailed tickets for other people -- with license plates that in no way resemble mine -- suggest that the computers are apparently programmed or operated by the same people responsible for keeping WMATA's escalators in good repair and getting Healthcare.gov operating.

by Bitter Brew on Nov 25, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

I agree that appropriate signage will be critical, as will enforcement during the first few weeks. But I think there's another problem with getting people used to streetcars: long head ways. If the streetcars are only running every 15 or 20 minutes and people know this, of course there will be drivers who think, "Meh...this thing only comes through here every 20 minutes. Surely I can park my car here with my emergency flashers on for 4 minutes while I run in to pick up my dry cleaning."

You can put up all the signs you want, but if people don't SEE streetcars, they won't change their (already illegal in some cases) parking habits.

by MJ on Nov 25, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@ MJ:"Meh...this thing only comes through here every 20 minutes. Surely I can park my car here with my emergency flashers on for 4 minutes while I run in to pick up my dry cleaning."

If my tow shark is there, their car won't last four minutes.

by Jasper on Nov 25, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

I have proposed this before, but cow-catchers should be standard on the street cars!

But in all reality, I think that 'predatory' towing would not be a bad idea during the first couple of months. Unfortunately, too many people don't care about the repercussions unless they directly and immediately effect them. For example, that person that runs in to get their dry cleaning is going to be very upset when the tow truck has their car hooked up before they return. Same goes for cycle lanes, even if it is only the chance of towing is much lower.

by Thad on Nov 25, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

Oh! How about an app that lets a citizen take a photo of the violation and lets them keep $5 or so of the price of the ticket! It would turn everyone in the city into your own little photo-enforcement patrol!

by ShawGuy on Nov 25, 2013 6:34 pm • linkreport

photoshop your enemies

by NE John on Nov 25, 2013 6:36 pm • linkreport

Its comments like Jaspers and that mindset that make people hate streetcars.

I see it more and more and expect it will get worse in the next 1-2 years as the streetcar is a flop in DC and streetcar supporters get more desperate.

Still, the whole thing is rather amusing.

by Enemies on Nov 25, 2013 8:35 pm • linkreport

I for one, have had enough with scofflaw drivers who think they can park their toy cars in streetcar lanes. Everyone knows that a vehicle with less than six wheels is just a lifestyle statement. How is it safe to have such a little thing in mixed traffic with a 30-ton tram?

Harumph Harumph, etc.

by Neil Flanagan on Nov 25, 2013 9:11 pm • linkreport

@ Enemies:Its comments like Jaspers and that mindset that make people hate streetcars.

Yeah, enforcing the law is really something you will hate - if you're a careless law-breaker. I have no mercy for people who just do whatever the hell pleases them, in complete disregard of the world around them. You know why? Because they've inconvenienced me enough.

I am sick of nearly being run over when crossing a pedestrian crossing with a green light several times a day. I am sick of drivers playing chicken with me when it comes to yielding. I am sick of people parking their car in the wrong place - and dangerously in my way. I am sick of the 'oh sorry, I didn't see you'. You weren't looking! Open your eyes!

/rant

I see it more and more and expect it will get worse in the next 1-2 years as the streetcar is a flop in DC and streetcar supporters get more desperate.

Of course we won't see you eating crow in 1-2 years when the streetcars are a smashing success and its opponents have been defeated by reality.

by Jasper on Nov 25, 2013 9:37 pm • linkreport

Wait until the drone of the electric motors and thump, thump, thump of the streetcars drive the neighborhood insane. They’ll be leaving cars on the tracks just to get some sleep or have some quiet again.

by AndrewJ on Nov 26, 2013 7:27 am • linkreport

the streetcars should definitely come with armored rams and a policy to simply not stop for illegally parked cars. a-hole drivers will do anything (like even obey obvious and simple parking rules) if the alternative is getting a scratch on their four wheeled manhood.

by Mike on Nov 26, 2013 8:58 am • linkreport

@AndrewJ

Why is that worse than noise from all the buses that currently use H St?

by jyindc on Nov 26, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@jyindc:Why is that worse than noise from all the buses that currently use H St?

At least the buses are covered by street-wide electrical wires obscuring any views of the sky.

by Jasper on Nov 26, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

@Andrew J

As opposed to the current drone of internal combustion engines, engine brakes, and squealing tires?

by Kyle-w on Nov 26, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

It occurs to me the streetcar could lead to a fun game.
Can six drunks at the bar pick up and move the offending vehicle?
I know from experience three can most a smartcar...

by scratchy on Nov 27, 2013 12:38 pm • linkreport

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