City Council approves 72-hour parking rule exception


By James Cullum |

The Alexandria City Council approved an amendment to the city’s contentious 72-hour parking rule at a public hearing at city hall on May 13.

The plan creates a travel permit system for one year, which will be managed by the Alexandria Transportation Division and the Alexandria Police Department and allow residents to electronically register to park on city streets for up to 28 days. The parking rule is in effect now and city council will revisit its efficacy in Nov. 2018.

“Parking is a quality of life issue,” Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said. “In my own neighborhood of Parkfairfax, sometimes people park and leave a car for a while, and we have very limited parking, just like Old Town.”

The new citywide rule would allow residents to apply for a 14-day parking exemption four times per year. Drivers would have to apply two weeks before leaving town and park within an eighth of a mile from their home. Staff recommended that no more than two contiguous exemptions be granted, meaning that a vehicle could potentially be parked on-street in the same location for up to 28 days.

The 72-hour rule parking rule has been part of Alexandria’s code since 1963 and has been criticized by residents who consider it an unfair excuse to get unwanted cars ticketed and towed. Currently, residents who park on city streets need to move their car every three days, which excludes weekends or holidays. Enforcement is driven by resident complaints, as 87 percent of the 7,500 suspected violations filed from 2010 to 2015 came from residents, as opposed to 13 percent filed by a parking enforcement or police officer on patrol.

Bert Ely, with the Old Town Civic Association, said that the rule will result in increased competition for parking throughout the city.

“Repealing the 72-hour rule, or creating an exemption to it, will almost certainly will increase the number of cars competing for parking spaces on the street, because that repeal will create a free good, that is, free long-term on street parking where that good does not exist today,” he said. “This will be especially troublesome in areas of the city where there already is an insufficient supply on on-street parking.”

Erick Chiang, who has lived on Queen Street for two decades, said that his neighbors routinely park outside their homes for longer than 72 hours. He said the new rule’s permitting requirement merely adds a bureaucratic layer without providing relief to residents.

“The 72-hour rule is an arbitrarily applied rule,” he said. “The proposed ordinance is a step backward. It will add bureaucratic costs, it will add confusion to the residents in Alexandria in its application. It only takes into consideration business and vacation travel and falls far short of providing relief for those, especially for those without off-street parking, who routinely leave their cars in the same location for periods beyond 72 hours.”

Patrick Reed, a city transportation planner, said that the pilot program will be revisited by council in late 2018.

“Based on the varied input that we’ve received in the public process, we want to be sure that we have the appropriate information to assure that we are meeting the needs of citizens in the city, and we feel that we can not do this without having the [one year] sunset provision to protect residents in terms of making sure that if the program is not effective it can be removed from the books expediently,” he said.