Angle parking came to 18th Street NW in Adams-Morgan last week and was followed immediately by a flurry of pink parking tickets.
Many of the people who live and work in the area learned how the new parking system works only after the telltale pink paper began to appear under their windshield wipers.
Leonor Rodriguez said she sent her daughter out to feed her parking meter on 18th Street before the one-hour limit was up.
"I always put money in every hour," said Rodriguez, who owns the Editorial El Mundo store at 2450 18th St. "But my daughter came back and said, 'Mummy, you already got a ticket. How com? The meter wasn't out.' So I said I didn't know and went out to see."
Fernando Ortiz, a waiter who lives on nearby Lamont Street, was just as surprised when he found the pink slip flapping under the windsheild wiper of his sky blue Monte Carlo twice last week.
Rodriguez will be contributing $10 to the city treasury and Ortiz $20 because they did not see the little signs, written in English and Spanish, telling them to back their cars into the new angled parking spaces on 18th Street.
The new parking scheme is due to the efforts of the 18th and Columbia Road Business Association. Under the new system, the parking spaces on the eastern side of 18th Street between Kalorama and Columbia roads were changed from parallel to angular.
The net effect is a gain of 28 parking spaces which Joseph Laskin, president of the business association, said should spur business along the already heavily traveled corridor in the Adams-Morgan area where there are no parking garages.
"We have been so hard hit by the lack of parking for so many years, it's pathetic," said Laskin, the owner of the Cosmo Wine and Liquor Shop, 1771 Columbia Rd. NW. "We feel this will help. If you get a turnover in those 28 spaces 10 times a day, that's 280 additional customers."
John Brophy, the city's public parking administrator, said the 18th Street experiment is one the city may want to implement elsewhere if it's successful. The city already has angular parking in two other sites -- the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill and in front of the Municipal Center on Indiana Avenue NW.
The cost of the 18th St. experiment -- including paint, extra meters, a few signs and bumper stops -- was negligible, Brophy said.Cement flower boxes were also brought in to beautify the area.
"We're trying to help the businessmen change the climate from an arterial to a browsing, pedestrian-oriented place," Brophy said. "As we developed the back-in system so folks wouldn't be backing into traffic when they pull out. We think it's a little safer this way."
Not all the merchants along 18th Street nor the police who patrol the area agree.
The shift to angular parking required other changes. The speed limit was reduced from 25 mph to 15 mph; the lanes were relined so that where there once were three southbound lanes -- one for parking, two for moving -- there are now only two, a lane each for parking and moving. The northbound side of the street, where the angular parking is, now has two moving lanes instead of the previous one. A yellow do-not-cross line was painted between the north-and south-bound lanes.
Not many people were paying attention to these things last week, the first week of the new system.
"I've seen people almost cause traffic accidents because they were backing out wrong," police officer James Davis said. He estimated he has probably issued 30 citations for violations of the parking rules during the first three days last week.
"It's a safety problem right now until we get everybody used to it. But we've been lucky. We haven't had any accidents yet."
As if on cue two minutes later, there was a crash. Someone tried to make an illegal U-turn into the angled spaces while someone else tried to pass him on the now non-existent "third" southbound lane.
During the next two hours, there were at least two dozen near-misses.
Earl Chinn, owner of the Negril Jamaica Bakery, 2443 18th St., said he felt "pretty ambivalent toward this (new system), but it's going through the teething stage.
"It might hurt my particular business because people used to double-park and run in and out of here. But for stores where people can go in and browse, I think it will help."
"This parking situation stinks!" wailed Al Shapiro, owner of Millie and Al's Restaurant, on the west side of the street where Brophy said the city's parallel parking will remain.
He and other merchants noted that the police are especially diligent about issuing tickets. But, Sydney Krieger of the Bargain Fair department store, 2479 18th St. NW, observed, "It should be healthy for business. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages."
For Sam Foxworthy, a nearby Lanier Street resident, and Peter Wilson, who once lived there, the new system has an allure.
"This is great," Wilson said. "It makes the street look like a town in the Old West. You've got a 5-and 10-cent store, an ice cream store, a tavern, a bank, the police station."
Foxworthy, who calls the area "Ticket Mecca," suggested another comparison. "This is not part of Washington," he only half teased. "With all the commotion, it's more like 86th and Broadway."