Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Don't expect Car2Go to always save you from parking tickets

March 30, 2012 - 11:55 AM
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Parked outside Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Chinatown. (Photo: Joshua Yospyn)

One of the virtues of new car-sharing service Car2Go, launched last weekend and costing 38 cents a minute to drive, is its promise of fewer parking restrictions. Car2Go members can, according to its agreement with the D.C. government, park in any non-restricted metered or non-metered space as long as it's in the "home area" of the District. You can't park in rush hour lanes, handicapped spaces, or any other marked spaces ... but otherwise, you should be free to park without the burden of parking tickets. When Car2Go first established a similar agreement with Austin, the company's North American head called the deal "groundbreaking."

But the city's local parking enforcement officials have, rightly or wrongly, begun ticketing our Car2Go cars, and people have noticed.

TBD photographer Joshua Yospyn noticed the ticketed car above. "A Car2Go vehicle parked outside Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Chinatown," he told me, "received a $50 parking ticket for failure to display a 'multispace meter receipt.'" There are today about 550 of the solar-powered multispace meters throughout the District responsible for 4,200 parking spaces. Yospyn said he's seen these Car2Go tickets all over, and others have said the same.

Chocolate strawberries
(Photo: Joshua Yospyn)

Social media shows that what Yospyn observed is hardly an isolated incident.

Consider this tweet and photo from Jason Rosenberg at 10:55 a.m. on March 28: "Car share program @car2go doesn't get parking tickets because of deals with the city...except in #DC." Look to Ryan Kellett, who tweeted the following photo and message at 6:52 p.m. on March 26: ".@car2go tickets dont inspire confidence in the new dc car sharing service." On the morning of March 29, another person found a parking ticket on a Car2Go vehicle at 7th and Q NW and also includes a photo. The Twitter user Nico Staple spotted a parking ticket on a car in Georgetown on March 27, photographed it, and wrote: "Whether the @car2goDC parking tickets are warranted or not, they're happening."

I've asked both Car2Go and D.C. government officials whether they have heard complaints or concerns but failed to receive a better measure on how much this is happening. These photos alone document five cases in the first week after its launch. Have you observed others? The case in Chinatown involved a District Department of Transportation ticket and the city has acknowledged it was written in error and it will be voided.

"We should not be writing those tickets," said John Lisle, DDOT's chief spokesperson.

Lisle attributed any improperly written ticket to the growing pains of a new car-sharing system with new rules. It's "not surprising," he told me, although the city has done training with its different parking enforcement personnel. But these ticketing officers are not used to seeing Car2Go vehicles yet and may not realize the new rules. Lisle also stressed the importance of Car2Go members learning the system's rules and being careful about where they park. Tickets, written for the right reasons, will likely continue to fall on Car2Go windshields whenever people park where they shouldn't. Drivers should continue to be mindful of parking signs and note the zones where Car2Go vehicles can't park.

Car2Go staff also stress how new the system is to D.C. As the company's marketing director Paul DeLong told me the other week, one of the greatest challenges is making sure new members understand the parking rules.

"If members do find a ticket on a Car2Go, we ask that they put the ticket in the glove box and inform us," said Katie Stafford, Car2Go's communications manager for North America, by e-mail late last night. "We are continuing to work with DPW and DDOT to ensure all enforcement agents are aware of this new parking rule. We are also working to make sure Car2Go members are aware of the parking rules ... this is simply something we're working to smooth out." Car2Go's stated policies have noted that members are expected to pay for any tickets or towing due to vehicles "improperly or illegally parked."

These parking tickets, if unwarranted, will hopefully owe to but a brief, unfortunate moment of confusion as Car2Go launches and knowledge of the parking rules and permissions spreads among city enforcement officials and among Car2Go members. Past experience has shown that parking enforcement doesn't always react fast when policies change.

Car2Go, of course, still has other issues to work out overall despite its promises of urban mobility and revolutionizing city transportation. Just look at some of the negative Yelp reviews of its Austin service, launched in fall of 2009, for proof of that.

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