In most parts of the world, parking in public spaces is regulated in some way. Cities in particular must devise and enforce a parking policy that ensures public safety, sanitation and convenience for motorists. Since parking violations can carry hefty fines (or, in some cases, impounded vehicles or criminal prosecution), understanding the various types of parking signs is important to anyone who plans to leave their vehicle in a public space.
No Parking Zones
Many of the most severe penalties apply to cars parked in No Parking zones. These include areas where emergency vehicles may need space to manoeuvre, such as near hospitals, fire brigades and police stations. Fire hydrants are one of the most common No Parking zones, occurring in every type of neighbourhood. Handicapped parking spaces may be designated as No Parking to all vehicles not displaying proper authorisation in the form of a sticker or tag. No Parking signs may indicate certain hours during which parking is prohibited or indicate that no parking is permitted at any time. In addition, some of these zones may distinguish between No Parking and No Standing. Parking is defined as leaving a vehicle unoccupied for any length of time. Standing, on the other hand, refers to a vehicle in which an operator remains, where they will be available to move the vehicle quickly if necessary.
Most cities use parking meters to charge for short-term parking, either on streets or in car parks. Parking meters are usually accompanied by some sort of signage indicating the parking rates, what the maximum length of time is that a vehicle may remain parked at a meter and during which hours metered parking is enforced. Parking meter signs should be read carefully, since there are usually variations among meter policies not only from city to city, but often within an individual city or neighbourhood. In general, more desirable parking areas will feature meters with higher rates or shorter maximum durations. Overnight parking is generally not metered, but some areas where meters are available may also be classified as No Parking or No Standing zones during certain hours.
Alternate Side Parking
Many residential and commercial districts feature signs that restrict parking during certain days, times of day or weeks. Known collectively as Alternate Side parking, these force vehicle operators to leave one side of a street free of parked vehicles at certain times. This can be useful for street cleaning, snow removal, trash collection or simply to discourage the parking of abandoned or non-operational vehicles. Alternate side parking regulations are usually heavily enforced, since it is easy for parking authorities to see if vehicles are parked illegally. Fines may be minor in these cases, but the prevention of civil services may be of equal importance to the residents of a neighbourhood.
In some residential neighbourhoods, daytime or overnight parking is regulated by the use of permits. This is usually done to ensure ample parking for residents. Permit parking is often accompanied by public parking during certain hours with signs posted to indicate when parking is or is not restricted to permit holders. Some cities charge residents for permits that allow them to park on city streets, while others issue permits to residents automatically. In both cases, permit parking is common to affluent neighbourhoods that are heavily trafficked and, therefore, permit parking is one of the most complex (and often violated) parking signs in use. Handicapped parking is another form of permit parking that may require certain spaces in car parks or on streets to be reserved for specially authorised drivers. Other restrictions, such as signs that limit parking to the customers of a certain business, are sometimes enforceable under city ordinances, but may in fact refer to no real legal sanction.
Car Parks and Garages
Most municipal and commercial car parks and structures are regulated by signage as well. These signs may list parking rates, prohibit overnight or long-term parking or state which businesses allow their patrons to park in specific spaces. Within a given lot or garage, further regulations may be posted. These include spaces reserved for handicapped drivers and spaces reserved for compact cars. Since many lots and garages are independently owned and operated, unlike the majority of public roadways, enforcement may be more severs and towing of illegally parked cars more common.