D.C. writing tickets over nonexistent streetcar

September 4, 2014 | 0 Comments

It’ll be months before H Street sees the streetcar go live, but already D.C. enforcement officials are issuing tickets to drivers who park in its route.

DC streetcar

The D.C. Avenue H streetcar. From DearEdward.

Testing of the line began in July, with the Department of Public Works issuing 143 tickets between July 24 and August 21. Because the fines run $100, the tickets have earned the district $14,300 in just a one-month period. Testing of the streetcar only occurs during the day, but Reggie Sanders, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT), says ticketing is “ongoing and will be ongoing forever.”

“We sort of have to get people used to the streetcar being out there,” he said. “It’s a tight space already, and we have to have people park consistently within the white lines.”

Sanders explained that warning notices were issued two weeks before citations began, a practice that seems generous until it’s compared to one enacted by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD): Before the MPD began using new speed cameras, it issued warning notices four weeks prior to issuing real fines.

Tickets aren’t the only penalty being levied. Eight vehicles have also been towed for blocking the streetcar’s 2.4-mile path from Union Station to the Anacostia River.

Tow trucks have been driving ahead of the streetcar during its testing phase and searching for vehicles that jut over the white lines demarcating parking spots. Tracks laid along the right-hand lanes of H Street in the northeast allows cars to pass the streetcar on the right and to park on the right, with white paint marking the parking spaces.

But parking is a tight fit. If a vehicle is even a millimeter over the white lines, the streetcar system will ground to a halt, said Sanders.

An example during a recent weekday brought Sanders’ warning to life. A delivery truck sat parked with its passenger-side wheels hugging the curb and its driver-side wheels squarely atop the white striping. The streetcar had to slow to a crawl so the operator could determine whether passage was possible. The operator was forced to stop and fold the truck’s side mirror before the streetcar could pass without damaging the truck.

Passersby looked on, marveling at the close call and questioning the streetcar’s efficiency: Just how viable will it be as a form of transportation once passengers are added?

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Category: Regulations

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