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Categories: DC Parking

The Expert Guide to D.C. Street Parking Rules

D.C. has one of the best-connected public transportation systems in the country. There are nearly 17,000 on-street metered parking spots in D.C. The District Department Of Transportation (DDOT) has launched a number of parking programs to mitigate congestion.

These include pay-by-phone parking meter options, residential permits, and visitor permits.

The DDOT also accepts out-of-state disability permits, unlike many other cities, and has special ADA accessible meters (designated by a blue dome) and is currently working toward having disability parking available every two blocks. Keep reading to find out how to avoid tickets in this congested east coast city:

General D.C. Street Parking Tips

Most parking tickets in DC are issued due to expired metered parking meters. Busy streets may have additional regulations during the rush hours between 7 am to 9 am for better traffic flow. If you park in a rush hour zone during rush hour, your car will likely be towed. Check nearby signs or download a parking app that will notify you when your car needs to be moved!

Keep in mind that many tourists come to D.C. for The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Spring. Which means that parking officers are on high alert, and ready to issue their next parking ticket. If you received a citation already, you can pay for it online or by calling (202) 737-4404.

Here are some general tips the next time you park in D.C:

  • Check nearby signs for special rush hour traffic rules, which may require you to move your car.
  • Keep an eye out for rush-hour traffic signs, which tell you when your car is at risk to be towed each day.
  • If you frequent the city, consider applying for a Rosa Exemption or a Visitor Permit

How does the D.C. visitor parking pass work?

The Visitor Parking Program in D.C. helps visitors park for longer than two hours throughout the city in zones that are typically reserved for residential permits. Register for a 2019 D.C. VPP permit on their website.

The DPW (Department of Public Works) monitors for automobiles that are not in compliance with D.C. registration requirements. If your car is marked twice as unregistered within a 30-day period, DPW will issue a warning notice indicating the automobile may receive a citation and be towed unless you request a recurring visitor pass, better known as a ROSA exemption. ROSA exemptions can be applied for by mail, in person, or online.

What are the most common parking tickets in D.C.?

Parking ticket fines in D.C. double after thirty days, so it’s important to pay any fines as soon as possible. Here are some of the most common parking violations in the city:

Ticket Cost
Metered overtime parking $30
Neighborhood Parking without a permit $35
Violating street sweeping hours $45
Bus stand or zone $100
Parking within 20 feet of a bus stop $50
Double Parking $50
Parking more than 12 inches from the curb $20
Failing to turn wheels to curb $20
Parking in a loading zone $50

What do I do if my car gets towed?

More than 50,000 cars are towed each year in the D.C. area. The city recently implemented a new system that allows drivers to sign up for email or text notifications that alert them if their car has been towed. Contact the Department Of Public Works at (202) 737-4404, or visit their website to sign up.

DPW tow crane operators may tow a vehicle for any parking violation.  Legally parked vehicles also may be towed in an emergency, such as when that shiny presidential motorcade rumbles through the city. Typically, DPW tows vehicles that pose a danger to the public or impede the flow of traffic. Here are some ways to avoid towing disasters:

  • Check local radio stations and TV for snow patrol updates
  • Avoid parking your car on a rush hour street if you aren’t sure you’ll be back in time to move it.

Washington D.C. Parking Signs:

Drivers in DC get used to reading many different parking signs on a daily basis. Below are the most common parking signs in the city.

Limited Hour Parking: This sign lets you know how many hours and days you’re allowed to park. In this specific situation, you’re expected to pay at all times.

No Parking: You’re not allowed to park here at any time.


Street Sweeping: During street sweeping hours, your car will get towed if you park near this sign.

Residential Parking: Only cars with residential parking permits can park here. You can apply for residential and visitor parking permits online.

Emergency No Parking: If you run into this sign, you should find another parking spot. You’re not allowed to park due to emergencies. Snow Emergency Route: During the Winter months in DC, keep an eye out for the following sign. If your car is blocking access for the snow plow, your car will get towed.

Free or Cheap Parking All Day or Overnight

You can count on free street parking in D.C. on Sundays and National Holidays. Neighborhoods such as Wiehle-Reston East, Huntington, Greenbelt, or Franconia-Springfield also offer overnight parking at no additional cost. The same thing goes for most metered parking, no additional costs overnight.

Visiting D.C.’s popular tourist monuments and attractions? You’re not alone. Look out for spots near Ohio Drive close to The Lincoln Memorial Park and The National Mall. Once all spots are taken, there are plenty of metered parking spots available all over town near metro stops.

Parking Near Union Station

Near Union Station, there is limited free parking, but plenty of parking garages. There are also limited areas with metered street parking, Visit the map to find out how much parking garages cost throughout the day if you plan to explore the city.

Parking Near the D.C. Zoo

If you’re willing to walk or take a cab to the gates of the zoo, there is ample free street parking half a mile away. Alternatively, if you plan to visit for only a couple of hours there is some metered parking available. Parking at the zoo itself will cost you$25.

Depending on the neighborhood and season, metered parking rates range between $1.50 – $3.25 an hour. Paying for your spot is convenient and stress-free since you get to choose your preferred payment method:  the city’s app, a phone call, credit card or coins.

Parking Garages In D.C.

Many D.C. locals go for one of many parking garages to avoid the hectic street parking battle. Visit the D.C. street parking map to compare rates, parking hours, and availability ahead of time for a smooth parking experience. Rates usually vary between $10 to $30 or more depending on how long you plan to park.

Is Metered Parking Suspended Today?

Luckily, you don’t have to keep an eye out for parking rates all the time. On Sundays and Holidays, you get to enjoy FREE parking for as long as you want without further parking restrictions. Recognized holidays in D.C. are as follows:

New Year’s Day Observed – January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 21
Inauguration Day – January 20
Washington’s Day – February 18
DC Emancipation Day – April 16
Memorial Day – May 27
Independence Day – July 4
Labor Day – September 2
Columbus Day – October 14
Veterans Day Observed – November 11
Thanksgiving Day – November 28
Christmas Day – December 25

D.C. Street Cleaning

D.C. street sweeping hours run from March 1 through October 31. Expect a parking citation of $45 if you’re blocking access for the street sweeper during the hours and days stated on the sign. The most common street cleaning hours occur between 9:30 am to 11:30 am or 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. Visit this in-depth D.C. street cleaning guide for more information.

View Interactive D.C. Parking Map

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