The Federal Express delivery van has a pink D.C. parking ticket flapping beneath its windshield on a breezy spring afternoon as the uniformed ticket writer strolling up K Street reaches it at the corner of 22nd Street.
“He got this right here this morning,” she says, checking the time it was issued. “They get a lot, but look how they park. This is a bus zone.”
She shuffles off, sparing the offending driver a second ticket. Two minutes later the driver emerges from the office building at 2175 K St., plucking off the ticket and stepping inside his truck.
“I get a couple a day. It’s part of doing the job,” he says. “There just isn’t appropriate parking.”
Neither the ticketer nor the ticketed wants to be identified. She says that’s a “bad policy,” and he says it’s company policy. For a package delivery driver working for FedEx or United Parcel Service, appropriate parking for office building deliveries means a place where the driver can load a couple-dozen packages onto a hand truck and then leave the van parked while scurrying from floor to floor inside the building.
There isn’t enough parking for delivery drivers in downtown Washington. While the city doesn’t keep track of delivery and service van parking tickets as a category, the number issued to the two big package delivery companies since the start of fiscal 2011 is an indication: 110,724.
Chalk it up to the cost of doing business in the city — virtually any big city — where delivery schedules are tight and there are precious few places to park legally while a driver dashes into a shop or office with a delivery.
Ultimately, like almost every other cost of business, it’s the customer who pays.
It’s not going to show up on the receipt for those flowers or the package from Amazon or the carton of office supplies, and it may not show as a budget line for the company that delivered the stuff, but it is a predictable cost of business in cities, where the price you pay to have things delivered to your door is factored in.
The big companies don’t like to talk about the fines they pay. But they’re hefty.
In the two-and-a-half years ended in April, the Buster Brown delivery trucks of UPS received 60,582 tickets in the District. At $50 for most tickets, that amounts to more than $3 million in fines. FedEx trucks collected 50,142 tickets worth more than $2.5 million in fines.
“It is a daily challenge to find parking space,” said Shea Leordeanu, a spokeswoman for FedEx. “It is a balance to adhere to parking regulations while also striving to meet the pick-up and delivery requirement of our customers.”
Kara Ross of UPS said that getting tickets is “definitely a part of doing business.”
In a nod to the regularity with which delivery and service vehicles get tickets, the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles created a tool — the Multi Owner Fleet Adjudication Program — to help companies with more than 10 vehicles keep track of their tickets and fines.
“That program allows us to better manage the ticketing process through weekly ticket reports and a penalty-free period to address them,” Leordeanu said.
The number of tickets her company received went up by 3,505 in fiscal 2012. The UPS ticket count went down by 641.
So how do they avoid tickets?
“Use loading zones, but there are not enough of them,” said Ed Peddicord, a service technician for Impact Office Products who has worked in downtown Washington for seven years. “We still get tickets. About four years ago, I got three of them in 40 minutes. I got one, then I moved around the corner and got two more.”
He found a legal parking space for the company’s purple van on L Street near 17th Street on a recent afternoon, talking business with colleague Josh Vacek.
“In D.C., if you average two tickets a day you’re doing good,” Vacek said. “One trick, if you get a ticket, you leave it on the windshield. They might not check it and you might not get another.”
Without enough parking within reach of their destination, delivery and service vans resort to double parking in traffic lanes, parking in bus loading zones and blocking bike lanes, sometimes in places that force bike riders out into traffic lanes.
Downtown delivery drivers say that new bike lanes, some of which eliminated parking spaces, have added to their challenge.
“I get maybe two tickets a day,” said a UPS driver as he unloaded his van beside a bike lane on 15th Street near M Street. “It’s been worse since they put in the bike lanes.”
District ticket writers doled out almost 1.9 million parking violations to vehicles of all sorts in fiscal 2012 and collected nearly $92.6 million in fines.