Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A ROSA By Any Other Name Smells Just As Bad

While walking the dog recently I saw a note on a car windshield. The note is directed towards "Officer Ward" and implores that the officer stop ticketing her car. The ticket is "Failure To Secure DC Tags" which is a $100 fine, and is issued under the ROSA program.

The victim here has Louisiana tags and said they are attending Catholic University. This car was parked on an unzoned block. There are no parking restrictions. The next morning, there was a ticket on her windshield, shown in the second picture.

Parking Note 1Parking Note 2

ROSA stands for "registration of out of state automobiles." It is one of DC's many anti-visitor polices, and as far as I know, is a form of extortion unique to DC. While many local governments love to extort money from visitors in the form of tolls and speed traps, only in DC do we have a rule that lets the police ticket your cars while they are legally parked.

If a policeman or "meter maid" believes that you are a resident of DC who has not changed their tags, or alternatively is a little short on their quota for the month, they can issue a legally parked car a one hundred dollar ticket, every single day. From DMV's web site:

The Metropolitan Police Department monitors residential areas for the presence of automobiles not in compliance with DC registration requirements. If an automobile has been observed a second time within a thirty-day period, a warning notice may be issued...

After that, it's ticket time.

So basically, this law means that if you do not have DC tags, and you legally park in DC more than once in a one-month period, you can be ticketed. Good luck visiting your boyfriend/girlfriend. Good luck being a regular service provider like a cleaning person. Good luck having friends who live somewhere other than DC (like, say, Maryland or Virginia) who want to visit you more than once a month. Good luck having a job in DC somewhere that has ample street parking, but few or no private parking options -- like at the Bancroft School, and a nursing home, in Mt. Pleasant. Where, ironically, ANC Commissioner Jack McKay tried to set up a registration program for daytime workers to actually pay for monthly permits so they could legally park near the school. Then - suddenly and unceremoniously -- the program, which was about to actually be enacted, was killed.

Apparently, DC's stranglehold on parking -- even in residential areas, during daytime hours only, when there is loads of parking available -- is more important than being able to provide a legal option for people who work in the city.

So, only way to avoid getting insanely expensive tickets when you park your out-of-state vehicle in DC is to obtain a reciprocity permit of which there are a mind-boggling array here. These include special permits for "students, military, and elected officials," "health care provider permit (60 days)," "visitor parking permit for guests (15 days)," and yes, even a "rental car parking permit (15 days)."

I guess "boyfriend/girlfriend" would fall under "visitor permit for guests (15 days)." To obtain one of these, you need:

  • The name and address of the resident
  • The name and address of the visitor using the permit
  • The license tag number, and issuing state of the visitor's vehicle
This is all extraordinarily inconvenient if you have a regular visitor, since you must go in person to a police station to get one every 15 days. I haven't a clue what you are expected to do if you don't happen to have the licence plate number for a guest handy, or if you have more than one guest. Oh yeah, I know what you're supposed to do: cough up the "protection money" to DC when you get the shakedown.

The upshot: If you want to park in DC then you need to prove you don't live here... even if you are parked legally, on an unzoned street, or during hours that parking restrictions do not apply.

Sometimes I am amazed that anyone comes here at all. I love this city. But it's laws like this that make DC seem like Hazzard County, where we're just waiting for Bo and Luke Duke to cross the county line so we can kick out their taillight and then arrest them for driving with a broken taillight.

There is no other place on earth that I am aware of where you can get a parking ticket while parked legally. Maybe that's because most places actually want people to come visit their city and spend their money. Too bad we are so shortsighted that we think extortion makes more economic sense than friendlieness. Someone up there needs to learn that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.


Jamie said...

I'm in a similar situation. I attend Catholic University part time, and my car is in my parent's name not mine, which means that even if I wanted, I can't get a reciprocity permit, because A its only for full time students, and B the person who owns the car must be the person going to school, even know its perfectly acceptable that I could be using my parent's car.

So far I haven't gotten a ROSA ticket, only the tickets for parking longer than 2 hours during the day. It seems that DC should provide some sort of way for people like to park legally, but I guess they don't like people attending their schools.

Christopher said...

Most states require you to register your car within a specified amount of time. (Not all mind you, as you then become a state resident.) I believe in California it was 10 days. Or apply for a visitors pass. This means that almost all public university students (if their smart anyway) that have cars in California pay in-state tuition. CHP regularly patrols college campus parking lots looking for out of state tags.

This is not unique at all, and frankly I wish DC would do it more. Far too many people with garages or alley parking spaces are not registering their vehicles in DC. That means of course, specifically those wealthy enough to have off street parking.

(And likely are paying income tax out of state as well.)

Dear Parking Authority: Kiss it. said...

Happens to me too. Boyfriend and a job in D.C.; residency, vehicle registration, and in-state tuition in Maryland, PG County.

Got an exemption.
Still get the tickets.
Every other time I'm in D.C.
Without fail.
Unzoned block.

Anonymous said...

The strange thing about residency is that if your a student you are not considered a resident is most states. DC included.

i don't know how CA works, but in NC it wasn't enough to just transfer your tags and license, and voting registration to establish residency for tuition purposes, b/c by the very nature of being a student you're considered a temporary resident.

Same thing in DC, if you're a student you're considered a temporary resident and your technically not allowed to switch over your tags and license (even though you can likely do this without issue). So its setup to extort you either way.

Also a student permit to park DC is outrageous, its over $300 a year. Its not like students don't pay DC taxes, they pay sales tax, all the visitor taxes, and possibly the income tax if they work, and still they get screwed over.

Jamie said...

@Christopher - That makes sense. If you are a resident. But what about all the other reasons why people might park in DC that I mentioned, such as visiting, shopping, doing business? And as others noted, technically, even students are not residents.

The point is simple: you can be ticketed for parking in DC even though you are not violating any parking law and are have a legally registered vehicle.

See "Dear Parking Authority: Kiss It" below if you think this is not a problem. It's especially egregious in DC, since we share a metropolitan area with two other states.

I don't know about the whole CHP thing but it seems a bit odd that the police would patrol private parking lots at colleges. How could it possibly be illegal to park your car regardless of where its registered on a private lot?

But whatever - in DC, people who live in VA and MD have lots of reasons to park their cars in DC often and we make it very hard for them to do so.

Anonymous said...

Let's see - the law says registration required or get a permit; failing that, the ticket is not for 'illegal parking' it is for illegally having a non-registered car or permit. hopefully, this is not a law student. Also - metro, zipcar, bike, feet are all pretty good options :>

if you want tough parking enforcment, try cambridge particularly around harvard/mit.

Jamie said...

@Anon, yes. I understand the law.

The point of my post is that the law is extremely draconian and visitor-unfriendly.

The upshot of the law is that you must change your registration to DC or get a visitor permit just to park in our damn city more than once a month without risking $100 tickets.

Since there are several million people who do NOT live in DC proper, but live within about 10 miles of DC proper, and may shop, visit, or do business here,isn't this kind of problematic?

Cambridge is not on the border of 2 other states.

I seriously doubt that there is any place in Cambridge where you can park a car in such a way that violates no posted parking restrictions and get a ticket.

Aggressively enforcing posted parking laws is fine. We do that in DC too. This is different. This is being ticketed while parked legally, with a legally registered vehicle, in violation of no posted law, in a metropolitan area where about 90% of the residents don't live in DC proper.

Jamie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jamie said...

Ha ha - my previous comment was not Cambdrige MA. But that did sound great.

Cambridge, MA:

You can get a permanent parking permit for your visitors. We cannot do that in DC, we must get one (every 15 days) that is valid for a single car. (Note - Except in ward 4 which has a pilot program)

List of parking violations in Cambridge:

No mention of "out of state plates" there.

Further, resident parking permits are valid ANYWHERE in cambridge -unlike DC where (if you can even get one) its only within your zone

I don't see how this is worse than DC.

Like every normal place, you get a ticket if you park in violation of posted restrictions. There are provisions for allowing your visitors to park.

In DC, you can be ticketed even though you violate no posted restriction.

The provisions for visitors are limited, and inconvenient.

D. said...

In NYC you can get a ticket for not having all the parts on you car, even if you are legally parked. Including if some drunk dude smashes your side mirror during the night, in which case you come out in the morning to (1) a car with no mirror, and (2) a nice ticket. Tickets are just part of the cost of owning a car.

Boomhauer said...


MPD aren't a bunch of robots. By and large they're not handing out tickets to any and every car parked on DC streets without tags/permits. They're handing tickets out to cars that they repeatedly see parked on city streets without proper tags. How much do you want to bet that the offender in question parks there every day?

As for boyfriend/girlfriends, if they're spending that much time in DC at your place, overnights, etc., then they should go get some kind of visitor's parking pass. They're not hard to get and they take two minutes at your local MPD District.

Jamie said...

1) I personally know someone who, like the commenter here, proved non-residency and was still ticketed frequently when legally parked

2) "They're not hard to get and they take two minutes at your local MPD District."

Personally, I think that it's a lot to ask that we go, in person, to the nearest police station and get a pass every two weeks for every visitor.

If you happen to live next door to the police station then I suppose it could take 2 minutes.

I do not. It would easily be a 30 minute errand, considering parking (at both ends) and assuming there was no wait. Do you really think we should have to go through this, 26 times a year, just so our guests can visit us?

If the goal is to allow residents to provide parking for their legitimate guests, can't you think of a system that's any better than this one? Like the systems used by any other jurisdiction in the U.S.?

The goal seems to be making money. Yes, there are ways to get the permits, but they are difficult enough that most people will take their chances.

Anonymous said...

These tickets are very common in the U St area, affecting people who work nights at bars/restaurants/nightclubs but live in MD or VA.

Jon said...

DC parking enforcement makes it clear, time and again, that they have zero interest in clearing the streets of illegally parked cars, and an abundance of interest in taking as much money as possible. Why else would you see cars parked in rush hour lanes get BOOTED?

Anonymous said...

As a taxpaying DC resident who has to deal with scarce parking spaces taken by out-of-staters all the time, I'm not terribly sympathetic. Having a car in the city, any city, is expensive, and surely someone who can afford CUA's tuition can afford the $300 fee. If you can't, don't bring a car to the city.

Jamie said...

If your concern is availability of parking, then how does saying "pay the fee" increase parking at all?

That is exactly the problem. All these rules have no effect on availability of parking. They just generate revenue by arbitrarily taxing people through fees and tickets. The cars are still there.

But this student, though the inspiration for this post, is not even the situation I have the biggest problem with. This person CAN actually get a permit.

What about all the people who have no recourse? If you work somewhere that has no parking of its own, who will you get a visitor pass from?

Even if you are visiting an actual resident, do you really think its reasonable we should have to obtain a pass for each visitor, that is valid for only 15 days?

Anonymous said...

Jamie, for folks who are commuting and can't park near there job, I guarantee there is a way for them to park somewhere for the day and walk or take public transportation. CH is already overparked in many areas and it's frustrating enough to find a parking spot for ourselves. The laws seem foolish, but I'm all for reducing the amount of driving in what is a very friendly city for walking (geographically small) and public transportation. Leave your car in VA/MD/wherever, and suck it up. The exercise is good for you.

Jamie said...

The thing is, that's just not always the case. Your attitude is not uncommon, and that's the whole problem: people can't conceive of situations that might make it difficult or impossible to use public transit effectively.

Columbia Heights has a parking garage and a metro. I am not concerned about that. I did specifically mention Mt. Pleasant.

Mt. Pleasant has no public parking. None. The nearest metro stations to the school and nursing home are Cohi and Cleveland Park, each about 15-20 minutes' walk. The nearest public parking is probably in Adams Morgan, at least a 20 minute walk.

This is absolutely not reasonable or practical for every single person for daily commuting.

Not everyone is as able-bodied as you. Not everyone lives near public transit in the first place, at the other end. Some people have to drive for other reasons, like picking up and dropping off kids.

These are not uncommon situations. The world is not "one size fits all", and the attitude of "screw everyone else, I live here" does not account for real needs of people who you actually want to be able to park in your neighborhood, like the people who work at your schools.

In the case of daytime workers, further, this is such a silly argument, because there is rarely a daytime parking problem in most RPP zoned areas, Mt. Pleasant included. The parking is just wasted since a lot of people drive to work and there's not a parking problem until the evening when they return.

Anonymous said...

DC is definitely visitor unfriendly. In particular, they don't cut active duty military any of the slack that the ('real') states do.

Want to register a car in DC? No can do unless you get a DC drivers license first. But my state of legal residence is New York (and being assigned to DC by the military doesn't change that). I've kept my New York driver's license through 10 interstate/international moves, with nary a hassle. But DC outright demanded that I get their license. DC lawmakers either never thought that some of its residents are military, and as such don't automatically become "legal residents". Or DC doesn't care. My money's on the latter.

Anonymous said...

I recently received a ROSA parking ticket after getting two warnings from Mr. Ward.

I am in a bit of a different situation than most others, though. I do actually live in DC, have been parking my car in an unzoned area during the day, and I commute to Maryland everyday for work using the metro. I basically keep my car here for the convenience of traveling on weekends (when they do maintenance on metro), and I have an interest in keeping my home state plates because I will be going back there next year for school and don't want to have a similar situation because I'm moving to another big city.

I do have some questions about this whole ROSA thing since I am obviously in their system. I am guessing they enforce it through automated plate scanning technology, does anyone know this for sure?

Also, if I leave my car at work during the week, will it be safe to park it in DC on the street during weekends, or is Ward going to nail me on weekends as well since they think I am a resident?


Mupfather said...

Just got one of these tickets, it seems that you can avoid them by entering your car into their database.

Yes, it means that you have to take the day off of work to stand in line in another state's DMV, to register your vehicle in another state, so that, should you have to stop in that state, you don't get a $100 ticket, but I feel it's preferable to taking a day off of work to stand in court and wait for DC to prove you live there every other week.

For the Free Exemption you'll need (and I'm quoting the girl on the DMV info service) "Insurance, Out of State Registration, Proof of Residence (Lease, Mortgage, Utility Bill, or Homeowners insurance), and Out of State ID. And the patience to travel to a DC DMV to stand in line for what would seem to be a constitutional violation. (Maybe this will get cleared up when DC can vote?)

Anonymous said...

2 weeks ago my car was broken into while my husband went inside Ft. Dupont Ice Skating Rink in Southeast D.C. to pick up our daughter from an ice hockey game. He was inside no more than 1/2 hour. The miscreant did not get the car, but they lodged something into my ignition which prevented one from inserting the key. I had just had surgery that day and was unable to drive to pick up my family. Instead we had to find someone to go pick up my husband and daughter. The next day the car was towed to the dealer in Maryland and I was given a rental with Maryland license tags.

The dealer had to order the part from Germany. However, because of the snowsorm in New York where the part first entered the U.S., it took several days to get to the dealer. Meanwhile, I kept the rental car with Maryland license tags. In all, I had that car for 7 days before I got my car back with D.C. license tags.

On the 6th day, at 4:07 a.m. when my car was legally parked, I received a $100.00 ticket for failing to secure D.C. Tags. Of course I will contest this, but this is absurd. How does one get D.C. tags for a car that person doesn't own? Talk about adding insult to injury; on top of paying my insurance deductible they expect me to pay $100 because they were unable to protect my car. D.C. is good at that.

Anonymous said...

My ticket states that my car was given warning over four months ago. So now I am stuck with a 100$ ticket. I go there to visit my girlfriend, but have never stayed for more than overnight. I also got such a ticket on my other car where in trying to fight it I had to take half a day off. Then, the line was so long that when I came out my car was towed. It turned out I had parked at a meter/spot that was only valid upto 4pm and then, even though money is paid car will be towed. My car was towed.
God I HATE DC parking regulations/laws as well as the enforcement personnel. I hope they all go to hell.

Anonymous said...

I am always wary of driving to DC let alone parking. There's always some garbage. Once I got a ticket because I was stuck in the middle of the street in a snow blizzard. The ticket was for double parking, while it called for a tow truck. I begged their tow truck to come PLEASE tow my car but of course they couldn't because of the snow- just like AAA's tow truck couldn't. Does this crap make sense? It is robbery. I don't know how DC residents deal with it.

Anonymous said...

That is exactly the problem. All these rules have no effect on availability of parking. They just generate revenue by arbitrarily taxing people through fees and tickets. The cars are still there. It is ultimately the city, the towing companies just do what they are obligated to do for the city. Yet, everyone gets upset with the towing company. I know a family that operates a towing service and they fortunately do business in the friendly manner possible. I just wish all towing companies operated like them.