A view of the D.C. streetcar on a westbound test run on H Street in the District on Nov. 11. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Parking in the booming and trendy H Street corridor has become an even more grueling ordeal since the city began testing the problem-plagued streetcar more than a year ago.

The streetcar still isn’t carrying passengers. Yet, while the empty red trolley treks up and down the 2.2-mile stretch from Union Station to the Anacostia River in Northeast, city workers are monitoring the streets and ticketing vehicles and motorists who breach the white line that separates parking and streetcar lanes.

“They are writing tickets like crazy,” said Rebecca Antone, the manager at Po Boy Jim Bar and Grill, between Seventh and Eighth streets NE. “And on top of that, the streetcar has been testing for a year but does nothing for our business.”

The D.C. Department of Public Works stepped up parking enforcement when the streetcar testing phase began in July 2014, and city officials said then that the line would be carrying passengers by the end of 2014.

Sixteen months later, no opening date has been set, yet the crew hired for the 24/7 parking enforcement has kept busy. They have towed more than 300 cars and issued roughly 1,300 tickets at $100 each for streetcar violations, according to data provided by DPW.

A parking enforcement officer prepares to ticket a vehicle on I and Third streets NE for an expired meter on Nov. 12. The space is a block from the H Street corridor, where parking is at a premium. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

City officials say the enforcement is necessary to ensure the streetcar’s path is clear of obstructions; city law prohibits vehicles from parking, stopping or standing on or within a streetcar guideway or near its platform. Despite the more than year-long practice period, there are still instances of drivers double-
parking to run into a store or a delivery-truck driver doing so to unload supplies.

The around-the-clock enforcement before streetcar service actually begins, however, doesn’t sit well with some business owners and patrons. While they don’t oppose efforts to keep vehicles off the streetcar tracks and out of its way, they say that stepped-up enforcement of other traffic regulations in the area is discouraging visitors to the up-and-coming corridor where the only transit option available is a crowded bus line.

For example, the city has instituted tougher parking regulations on neighboring streets in response to residents’ complaints about restaurant and bar patrons trampling their lawns and encroaching on residential parking.

Then there are the numerous construction projects in the area that have eaten up precious curbside parking.

“We lost all of our parking,” said Kelly Hartshorn, co-owner of Metro Mutts, a pet store in the 500 block of H Street, where the city relocated a Metrobus stop to accommodate construction of a Whole Foods and residential unit the next block over. Now a bus stop and a streetcar platform are within steps of each other in Hartshorn’s block.

A view of one of numerous signs posted along H Street warning of towing if a vehicle is parked too close to the H Street streetcar track in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

“It has been a mess. It’s hard on business, because there’s no parking for customers,” she said. But what’s more troublesome, she said, is the years of waiting for a streetcar that seems like it will never open.

“We were really excited at the beginning, but at this point we are kind of tired of it,” she said.

In many ways, the H Street corridor is like other parts of the city that have experienced an economic revival — such as NoMa and Navy Yard — where there are competing demands for transportation infrastructure. But unlike those rapidly changing areas, H Street lacks transit. The closest Metro stations are Union Station and NoMa-Gallaudet U, neither of which is within easy walking distance. Business owners also complain there are no long-term private or public parking garages.

The city warned residents, visitors and business owners about the changes that would accompany the streetcar’s arrival, but critics say officials failed to predict the increased demand for parking and mass transit in the area.

“Everybody was forewarned, but what they have been forewarned about never came to fruition,” said John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-
Atlantic. “And the frustration is we have no mass transportation, yet the parking enforcement has not abated.”

D.C. transportation officials acknowledge the struggle to accommodate demands for parking and transit, but they reject criticism that people have no other transportation options.

In addition to the X-line buses connecting the Minnesota Avenue Metro station to the White House via H Street, the corridor also is home to six Capital Bikeshare stations — an increasingly popular means of transportation, city officials said. The corridor also is a strong market for app-based ride services Uber and Lyft, as well as car-rental service Car2Go.

Sam Zimbabwe, a DDOT associate director, said public parking facilities have never been something the District has chosen to invest in, but as the corridor continues to grow and demand increases, the private sector may step in to provide them.

“We want to encourage the use of other modes of travel,” Zimbabwe said. “We know that there are people who will choose to and will need to drive to places. But if everybody chooses to drive because there are no other options, then nobody is going to have any parking.”

The streetcar service is expected to add to the transit demand in the corridor and further encourage less use of personal vehicles. Some residents say they, too, see the benefit of enforcing and boosting parking restrictions even before the streetcar carries passengers.

“Some people mistakenly imagine that the streetcar is slowing down their commutes, but most of us who drive up and down H Street now find it less likely to be stuck behind someone who is double-parked, which unfortunately used to be a pretty frequent occurrence in the corridor,” said Phil Toomajian, a resident and member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. He said visitors and residents only need to learn to stay inside the parking lane to avoid penalties.

Although there is frustration about the delays and the changes that have come with it, the streetcar has had its benefits, he said.

“H Street was a corridor that had a tremendous lack of economic investment and a slew of vacant properties, and with each passing year since the streetcar construction began, we are seeing fewer vacant properties, more residents in the neighborhood and more businesses opening up,” Toomajian said. “From that standpoint, even though it hasn’t carried a passenger, the streetcar has been a tremendous success.”

Thewodros Hashem, co-owner of Addis Ethio­pian Restaurant in the 700 block of H Street, said it has created more transportation problems, from slowing traffic to taking away parking. Those changes, he said, would be justified if the line was up and running.

“I don’t see the help to H Street,” he said, noting that even business owners have to move their cars every two hours or feed the meter until 10 p.m. because there is no long-term parking available.

According to DPW, between July 14, 2014, and the end of October, it had issued 1,169 tickets for guideway violations. Additionally, 110 tickets were issued to vehicles blocking the streetcar platform. All were $100 fines. The city towed 305 vehicles and impounded 28 during that period.

DPW Director Christopher Shorter said the agency has used the past year to change parking habits and patterns in the area before passenger service begins. The other enforcement, he said, also is necessary to maintain parking availability in an area that has growing need for what is a static resource. Enforcement helps promote turnover in parking spaces.

When it is in service, he said, a full streetcar has no way to get around a commercial vehicle double-parked to deliver food to a store.

“Ultimately, we want a successful streetcar program . . . and it will not be if it has to stop every few minutes because a car has to be towed,” he said.