D.C. parking program, street cleaning leave some with no place to park

It's March 1 - the first day of street sweeping in the D.C. That means drivers should double check those no parking signs for weekly curbside restrictions.

Those restrictions now overlap with a new enhanced residential parking permit program, leaving some drivers with nowhere to park on certain streets.

The program, also referred to as ERPP, was created by Councilman Jim Graham. It restricts 50 percent of parking - one half of the street - to residents only. It's only in effect in Ward 1 and other select pockets of the District.

But critics say it creates a new burden for drivers from out-of-state or from other neighborhoods.

Mike Smith of Northwest Washington said, "I think any restriction on it is gonna discourage people from having cars."

Along U Street, parking for popular bars and restaurants often overflow onto nearby residential streets.

"And it's hard to find parking where I live because a lot of visitors are there," added D.C. resident Alison Redd.

Once a pilot program, Enhanced Residential Parking is enforce across Ward 1.

Graham, (D) D.C. Council, said, "It's not a magic cure-all, but for the first time people are finding parking spaces."

To park on one side of the street, drivers need an RPP sticker.

"...we know others want to park in our neighborhoods, but the first priority should be those who live there," Graham explained.

But for two hours once a week, residential street sweeping restricts anyone from parking on the other side of the street. For those two hours, non-residents have nowhere to park.

Tourist Wayne Jackson said, "You know, I think D.C. is great, but if you want people like me to come and visit, get some parking."

AAA Mid-Atlantic's Lon Anderson says it's great the government wants to protect curbside parking for residents, but visitors are desperate for parking too.

According to Destination D.C., 10 million overnight visitors traveled to D.C. by car in 2008. They made up 65 percent of tourists who came that year.

"And the question is how difficult should we make it for them to be here? How much should we penalize them...realistically, what we're talking about is these people probably parking there and then getting tickets," Anderson said.

But Graham points out the overlap in restrictions doesn't last all day.

"We've got to clean the streets. I mean, this is the great tension. Do you want clean streets or do you want parking?," Graham asked.

Graham also says residents can temporarily provide their nannies, contractors or servicemen with a DMV sanctioned visitor's pass to park on the resident-only side of the street carefree.

DDOT says the Enhanced Residential Parking Program is in effect on 550 neighborhood blocks. Violators will be ticketed and towed.