The ticket writer wagged a finger at Angie Hunter and warned against parking along 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Hunter responded with an angry wave of the $20 citation she had received for violating a new parking restriction in the heart of the nightclub corridor.
On Friday, the sun gave way to a warm spring night as the beat of conga drums drifted out of clubs featuring Latin and reggae music. Patrons in linen shirts and open-toed shoes headed to dinner, drinks and dancing. Meanwhile, a handful of District ticket writers and police officers on bicycles were implementing new rules that are aimed at easing traffic congestion.
On Fridays and Saturdays, until Sept. 30, no parking will be permitted from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the west side of 18th Street between Columbia and Kalorama roads, District transportation officials said. The pilot program is expected to relieve the gridlock on weekend nights in the Northwest strip by opening an extra traffic lane on 18th Street for vehicles to drop off and pick up restaurant and nightclub patrons without blocking southbound traffic. During the restricted hours, 18 metered spaces will be unavailable for parking.
Many business owners and activists welcome an attempt to ease the steady flow of cars on neighborhood streets. Parking and congestion have long been highly contentious issues for area residents and businesses.
But the first night of the new restrictions brought more angst from drivers than traffic relief.
At 9:05 p.m., Hunter's Honda Accord was the first vehicle ticketed.
"This is outrageous. . . . The sign just appeared this week," said Hunter, 32, a teacher who has lived in Adams Morgan the past eight years. She parked her car at 6 p.m. but didn't find her ticket until 10 p.m.
Hunter said that in addition to new parking restriction signs, officials should post temporary signs on the parking meters to warn motorists who otherwise might not realize they must now move their cars by 9 p.m. Still, Hunter said, she welcomes any effort to relieve the traffic congestion.
Dan Tangherlini, the city's transportation department director, said the department will closely monitor how the new regulations work, especially if traffic flows too quickly, endangering pedestrians and the ambience of the street. Officials will review the effect of the pilot program before deciding whether to make it permanent.
Officials also said reducing traffic congestion will help police and emergency vehicles move through the busy area.
"This is something we've talked about in Adams Morgan for 20 years," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). "It's just a trial. The signs went up; they can quickly come down. We're just so clogged."
Parking service employees and police officers spent Friday night warning drivers. On 18th Street, Parking Services Administrator Teri Doke Adams tapped a "No Parking" sign with her finger to ward off a candy-apple red Porsche.
The new citations will join the list that a group of 10 ticket writers logs on the weekends in the Adams Morgan and U Street areas, she said.
But success was measured in yards, not city blocks Friday night because many motorists ignored the signs or were unaware of the new restrictions. Traffic eased only slightly, and congestion remained constant on neighborhood blocks near 18th Street. By 2 a.m., traffic was at a standstill, and all 18 of the restricted parking spaces were filled.
For now, violators will receive $20 tickets, a price designed to put some bite behind the enforcement without hitting drivers too hard and to ease into the process -- lessons learned from criticism about aggressive enforcement around RFK Stadium this spring, Tangherlini said.
Officials urge patrons to take public transportation and taxicabs to the area.
"They're doing the right thing, and the right thing is to go easy," said Pat Patrick, vice president of the Adams Morgan Business and Professional Association. He favors the restrictions but said they should be just one component of a more comprehensive plan to push public transportation and manage taxicab travel.
"Handing out tickets is the wrong way to do it," said Rachid Abdallah, owner of the Bossa, a club that features live Latin and jazz rhythms and artwork.
Although Abdallah supports the plan to restrict parking as a temporary solution, he suggested following the approach taken by cities such as Miami, Paris and Barcelona, where streets are closed to weekend vehicle traffic to encourage thriving pedestrian thoroughfares.
"I think it would add more charm," Abdallah said. "This is the international quarter of D.C, and we should capitalize on that."
Phyllis and Cameron Ferguson, who were planning to have an Indian meal in Adams Morgan, drove around the neighborhood for more than an hour before finding a parking space. But after receiving a ticket, the couple said that next time they would stay at their Alexandria home and grill.