Decode the details that could cost you plenty

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- You see them everywhere you turn, stacked like a totem pole, one on top of the other.

"Sometimes the sign tells you three or four different things. You almost have to have a PhD to understand the signs," says AAA Mid-Atlantic's John Townsend.

"It says here no parking in one direction, and right below it, it says two hour parking. That's pretty confusing," says Alan Savada.

The travel agent knows his way around the world. But, when it comes to getting around DC and understanding the parking signs, well, let's just say it's complicated.

"I got a $50 ticket for parking in a no loading zone where the sign said "no parking" seven cars away at the other end of the street. And, they wrote, "no parking" was the violation," he says.

But, according to the Alan Savada, the sign said he could park in that no loading zone after 6:30 p.m. So, when he left his car along Vermont Avenue back in August of 2011, he figured he could park there without a problem. When he returned a $50 ticket was slapped on his windshield. He has spent $110 plus more than two years trying to contest it.

He tells WUSA 9's Lesli Foster that it is worth it to fight the ticket. Savada says, "I'd pay $500 if I had to 'cause I'm right. They're wrong. And, when I'm right, I deserve the chance to prove my innocence."

Alan isn't the only one. People have taken to social media to air their frustrations. Many of those complaints about parking signs end up in the office of DC's parking Czar, Evian Patterson.

"We hear it all the time," says DDOT's City Wide Parking Programs Manager.

Patterson's office doesn't enforce parking violations, but they do put up the signs that can lead to them. We asked him to come out and help us decode the language. A good rule of thumb, red tells you where you can't park. The green sign is the most important part of the lineup.

Patterson says, "That'll tell you where can park."

Even those green signs can send a mixed message. Patterson says his agency is in the process of replacing the confusing parking signs with newer ones. Patterson says, "We account for the time that you can pay for two hours from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. and, then from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can pay for three and half hours."

Those clearer signs aren't up everywhere. WUSA 9's Lesli Foster showed Patterson a stretch along 31st and M Streets in Georgetown that had her stumped. One sign said no parking loading zone, then there's the bus zone sign which means you can't park there either. Patterson says you can only park there Saturday and Sunday.

But, Lesli Foster points out to him that it's even more confusing because the multiple space meter says you can park for two hours Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It was a stretch filled with a lot of confusing information.

DDOT's Evian Patterson agreed and says, "This is something we would probably relocate or change the language here on the sign."

Patterson says the city is making changes to area's like this in hopes of cutting the sign clutter that can lead to confusion and parking fines.

"We need to search for better ways of regulating the streets, you know, language you can understand," he says.

Understanding is something residents like Alan Savada hope they'll get in their quest to get rid of tickets, they feel, they were powerless to avoid in the first place.

"Sometimes you just pay the fine because you can't be bothered with it. I do that. But, sometimes I also just say no, I am right. They are wrong. they're not going to get away with it this time," he says.

DDOT says it will continue to work to make their parking signs more user friendly. And if you have any concerns or need help navigating the signs or the city's streets, you can contact the agency's Call Center at 202-671-4625.


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