Whether you are a Washington DC area local or here for a visit, parking in DC can be overwhelming at first. One of the best tips for visiting Washington DC is to use public transportation – but understandably, that is not always an option.
There are so many options available from parking garages, metered spaces, and general neighborhood street parking. A news article recently reported that DC issued one billion dollars in parking fines over the last few years, with fines projected to break 2020 records.
In order to avoid becoming part of that statistic, this guide will help you navigate the twists and turns of DC and take the guess work out of parking, so that your visit to the District is stress free.
In general, it’s a good idea to check the official DC transportation pages in case any regulations have recently changed.
The Ultimate Guide To Parking In DC
When you’re Downtown, the most cost-effective option is street parking in DC.
Metered parking is common and will run you about $2.30/hour or 50 cents per 15 minutes. It is one rate for cars, regardless of whether it is a “normal” or “premium” area.
Normal metered parking spaces usually run from 7:00am to 6:30pm with some exceptions. For example, premium demand areas like the National Mall, U Street NW/Corridor, and Penn Quarter/Chinatown are enforced until 10pm.
If you’re unsure about the signage, you can always call the District Department of Transportation at (202) 671-2700 or visit their website.
Street Parking in Neighborhoods
There is no one guide to parking in DC neighborhoods. Every neighborhood is different with different rules.
For example, you may visit a neighborhood with a sign that says “2-hour parking from 7:00AM-6:30PM Except Zone 1 Holders.” This means if you do not have the appropriate permit for that residential area zone, you can only park there for 2 hours during the stated time.
Please note that parking rules are strictly enforced in DC. Set an alarm on your phone to make sure that you return to your car in time otherwise you may be faced with unwanted parking ticket.
*Pro Tip: If you can avoid parking in front of someones house or disturbing a neighborhood, this is best.
Residential Visitor Parking
You can register for visitor parking which takes a few weeks to process, so plan accordingly.
As a DC resident, the Visitor Parking Pass program allows your guests to park more than the allotted two hours in the standard Residential Permit zones; essentially the same rules that apply to you as a resident will apply to your guest.
The exception to this is Ward 2 and 2f who are not part of the program. This is a great option if you are coming from out of town and visiting a friend for the weekend.
Be careful not to abuse this privilege as it can prevent other residents from finding parking.
Two large parking companies are the Colonial Garage and Laz Parking. Colonial Garage are locally owned and operated garages. Their website has a search function which allows you to see the different types of rates and hours of operations.
Laz Parking has garages available in major cities like NYC and Boston and throughout the United States. If you’re driving around looking for parking in DC, you’re likely to come across one of these as there are 60 in the city.
Parking by Metros
If you choose to Park by a metro outside of the district and avoid the hassle of finding parking in DC, you can find parking lots at all 44 metro stations which include hourly and daily rates. 36 of these stations offer reserved parking.
On weekends and federal holidays, the parking is free unless there is a special event. The accepted forms of payment are a SmarTrip card which you can purchase at one of the self-service machines, a credit card, or coins for the metered parking.
If you are a local, you can also reserve a monthly pass for $45-65 in addition to the daily fee. You can find additional details about parking by Metros and use the search function on the WMATA website.
The daily rates for parking by metros outside of DC are likely to be significantly less then garages in high traffic areas like the National Mall. If you don’t mind parking your car outside of town, this is likely to be the most cost and time efficient parking option.
Parking Regulations and Where/How not to Park in DC
It is very important to pay attention to the signage for parking and the hours that they are enforced. If you end up parking incorrectly, it could result in a $150 ticket.
Some rules are enforced regardless of whether a sign is present. For example, you cannot park in a private driveway or alleyway and must be parked 5 feet away from the aforementioned areas in order to avoid interrupting pedestrian traffic.
You cannot park on any kind of “elevated” structure such as an on-ramp or median. Some exceptions to this rule are if you are abiding to a request by law enforcement or emergency services. If you violate these rules, you will be ticketed and if your vehicle is found violating regular parking in excess of 24 hours, Public Works employees or the Metropolitan Police have the right to tow or impound your vehicle.
While you can stop generally anywhere to unload passengers where stopping and standing is NOT prohibited, but parking is, you cannot stop for a duration of time that it would take to unload materials (i.e. moving).
Please note, if you are parking in metered parking and the time or the amount paid for the parking space has expired or if you do not correctly display the ticket in a clearly visible area of the dashboard, you will be liable to get ticketed
You are able to park for an “unlimited” amount of time in the evening in areas where signs clearly state, “unlimited evening hours zone.” It is important to mention that evening is defined as 6:30PM to 7:00AM the following day.
DC is strict about how far you are away from curbs, crosswalks, and construction, so make sure you allow enough space.
Websites and Apps for Parking in DC
There are several easy to use apps and websites that can help take the worry out of finding parking.
A great website to start with which is part of the District Department of Transportation is Go DC Go. This site will help you plan your trip sustainably. Go DC Go has maps of DC and parking zones, so you can get to know the grid before you arrive.
Spot Hero is another app which provides parking reservation services by working with local garages.
You can use either the website or the app to find the best spot, reserve, and pay ahead of time.
This reduces the chance of returning to an unexpectedly expensive parking charge. Spot Hero guarantees the spot and the price you paid.
DC has a pay by phone program which allows you to call to pay for your parking spot. I-Phone, Android, and Blackberry users can also download the app to pay. If you opt to do this, they add a .32 cents transaction fee.
The program is executed through the platform Parkmobile, which adds more functionality for I-Phone users who can use their GPS to save preferred zones.
Parkwhiz is an app (and website) that allows you find parking in DC and reserve the spots before you arrive.
The site lists hourly and monthly rates for a variety of locations such as the Walter E. Reed Convention Center to neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill.
This app is great because it will show you a map of the prices – displaying what the closest and/or cheapest parking options are. It is available on both the App Store and Google Play.
Parking Panda allows you to search and reserve your spot at a discounted rate. When you arrive at the location, you can use your phone to redeem your QR code at one of Parking Panda’s kiosks. No more having to worry about where you put your ticket!
Spot Hero, Parkmobile, Park Whiz and Parking Panda, are some of the more popular apps, but there are quite a few more there. Privately owned parking garages are also adding online functionality in order to compete with app services.
As a visitor or even a resident, parking can, understandably, come across confusing. With this guide, you will be able to make sense of parking in DC while planning your trip to the district to visit the monuments, museums, or your friends for the weekend in Georgetown.
For tourists, remember that there are commuters on their way to work also searching for parking in DC. This means garages and metered parking can fill up quickly in the mornings.
The good news is that you have several options available including street parking, parking in garages, and by Metros.
If you cannot make sense of the signs or rules, you can always check one of the above-mentioned apps before you go and reserve a spot in advance. We’ve done the research for you, so that this guide will provide everything you need to know about parking in DC and you can enjoy your trip!
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