Promotes Uniformity Among Signs at EV Charging Stations
Spaces in front of EV charging stations are not parking spots, they are for electric vehicles while being refueled. Official signs that meet federal and state standards are the best way to communicate this message.
At the dawn of the automobile age, directional road signs were mostly an endeavor by private groups such as the AAA and other automobile clubs. Signs were used by these groups for promotion and branding as much as they were for directions and information. This led to a hodgepodge of directional signage along the roadways. In the 1920s, government began to develop signage standards. The familiar octagonal stop sign, for instance, grew out of those efforts.
Today, we are seeing a similar trend in signs placed at electric vehicle charging stations. Charging station operators often have distinct and different signs. Some seem designed with a priority for branding and style over clarity and uniformity. This leads to ambiguous messaging and more blocked charging stations.
Federal Standards for Parking Signs
Standards for size, shape, color, etc. for signs placed on roadways and parking lots are defined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). By law, all traffic control devices must conform to these standards.
The FHWA issued a Policy Statement on June 17, 2013 to address regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. The document contains recommended signs with word legends to convey parking restrictions at EV charging stations. Howard County chose to use the R7-113 example provided by the FHWA to post at 31 utility-operated charging stations located at five county-owned sites. These “no parking except while charging” regulatory signs replaced green and white signs with “electric vehicle parking only” and a logo depicting a car with a plug.
Commercial Vehicles Not Welcome at Some Maryland Public Charging Stations
Government encourages us to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels by driving electric vehicles. Some cities and states support these efforts by installing EV charging equipment on public property. What happens when government decides to prohibit commercial electric vehicles from using public charging stations?
Hyattsville and Takoma Park, Maryland are environmentally friendly towns that enthusiastically support EV charging. The Hyattsville, MD Police Department is the first in the US to use a Chevy Bolt EV patrol car. Takoma Park attracted national attention when a former gas station dumped the pumps and installed Fast Chargers.
Perhaps due to the pioneering nature of these two towns, they are also first to experience challenges that go with providing the public with free EV charging.
For-Hire Cars Prohibited at Grant Funded Chargers in Hyattsville
Two DC Fast Chargers at Hyattsville City Municipal Center opened in August, 2018. The chargers are funded in part by a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. The MEA grant program has helped fund many other fast chargers in Maryland from Ocean City to Hagerstown.
The guidelines for the Maryland Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Program require that DC Fast Chargers funded by the program be publicly accessible. The guidelines don’t clarify if the term “publicly accessible” applies to making the chargers available to commercial vehicles.
The City of Hyattsville partnered with the grantee to provide a site for the two 50 kW chargers in the parking lot in front of the City Municipal Center.
According to the Manager of Code and Parking Compliance for the City of Hyattsville, the city’s position is that the chargers are not intended for use by commercial vehicles and the City Administrator directed that signs be posted that prohibit any “for-hire” vehicles from parking or charging there.
Electrify America is building one of their largest and highest powered charging stations in the parking lot of Walmart in Columbia, Maryland. There are 10 DC Fast Charging dispensers, five are labeled 320 kW.
When construction started to wind down and signs were installed, I was disappointed to see only “branding” signs with, “EV charging only” printed in small, thin letters on the far ends of the charging area. I took to Twitter and asked @ElectrifyAm for signs that conformed to the MUTCD standards so that the police could enforce Howard County’s anti-ICEing ordinance.
Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Parking (MCDOT), which manages the operation and enforcement of Electric Vehicle charging stations in all County owned and operated public parking facilities, has changed the signs at their EV charging stations to clearly state that the spots are for charging. The new signs are in response to customer feedback that electric vehicles were parking in the spaces and not actually plugging in and charging.
The previous signs stated, “No Parking Except Electric Vehicles” which may not have communicated clearly enough for some that the spots are intended for using the charging station and not just for parking an EV. Read More …
On March 4, 2013 I contacted the Columbia Association, a non-profit community organization that had recently used a U.S. Dept. of Energy grant and their own funds to install five EV charging stations at four of their facilities in Howard County, Maryland. I thanked them as an EV driver and suggested they post “no parking except for electric vehicle charging” signs at the charging stations since there were often gas vehicles parked in front of them.
Other EV drivers also contacted them about the ICEing problem. The response we got was that they had designed blue signs that said, “Electric Vehicle Charging Station.” They added that they were not willing to post signs that restricted parking to electric vehicles only, in part, because there were no enforceable regulations similar to those for handicapped spaces. Read More …
A Policy Statement issued June 17, 2013 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration addresses regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. [Link to webpage]
This Policy is intended to provide guidance based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) for uniformity among regulatory signs used for on-street electric vehicle charging and parking sites.
This Policy can be shared with local officials and property owners that wish to have signs that conform to MUTCD specifications that are required in some jurisdictions in order for the police to enforce anti-ICEing laws. (legislation reference)
Signs have been posted at public charging stations in Ocean City, Maryland that read, “ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING ONLY, PARKING WHILE NOT CONNECTED TO CHARGING EQUIPMENT IS A PARKING INFRACTION, $30.00 PENALTY.”
Ocean City is apparently using an existing local ordinance rather than passing a specific anti-ICEing law to regulate and enforce parking at EV charging stations at city-owned parking facilities. Town ordinance 90-137d4 prohibits parking where prohibited by an official sign. That offense carries a maximum $30 fine.
Sec. 90-137. – Stopping, standing or parking prohibited in certain places; other parking restrictions.
(d) Parking. A person may not:
(4) Park a vehicle at any other place where parking is prohibited by an official sign.
The signs also prohibit electric vehicles from parking and not plugging in. The charging stations where the signs are posted are on city property and there is no fee to use them at this time.
Thanks to Chrgit for the tip and photo.
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Last Tuesday the Howard County Council voted on a bill to authorize the Howard County Police Department to enforce parking restrictions at designated plug-in vehicle charging stations on private property. Within four days, the Columbia Association had taken down all signs that said “EV PARKING ONLY” at their five EV charging stations in the county.
Dennis Mattey, Director of Open Space & Facilities Services at Columbia Association said the “EV PARKING ONLY” signs were taken down in response to the recent Howard County legislation. He said that they didn’t want people to get tickets. According to Mattey, the charging stations were originally approved under the premise that the parking spots not be only for EVs. He said the signs will be replaced with ones that designate EV preferred parking.
Columbia Association Changed Position on Signage
The reason given for removing the signs contradicts the Columbia Association’s earlier position that “EV ONLY” signs were not posted because of the absence of legislation related to EV charging spaces.
In a Columbia Association Newsletter announcing the charging stations in 2014, the reason given as to why the charging spots were not reserved for EVs only was said to be because of the lack of an enforceable law.
“There are several reasons the adjacent parking spaces are not posted as reserved for EV use only. First there is no statute in Maryland or Howard County designating EV charging station sites as a category of privileged parking (such as the signage posted for handicapped parking). Thus, there is no police enforcement mechanism for EV only designation.”
When Howard County passed its anti-ICEing law in July, 2014, the Columbia Association changed the signs from “Electric Vehicle Charging Station” to “EV PARKING ONLY 4 HOUR LIMIT” once they saw there was an enforceable regulation for EV charging station parking.
The advocacy for the Howard County anti-ICEing law was done largely to solve the problem at the Columbia Association charging stations, especially the one near Kahler Hall. Now that a law has been passed, the Columbia Association has reversed their position and cites the existence rather than the lack of an enforceable regulation as the reason not to reserve the charging spaces for EVs only.
A statewide anti-ICEing bill, sponsored by Delegate Clarence Lam, is now before the Maryland General Assembly.
Double ICEd by Tractor-Trailer
Take a look at that picture. A tractor-trailer truck is blocking not just one, but TWO EV charging stations. And those are the only charging stations for miles around.
This occurred on August 27, 2015 at the “Charging Up Delaware” EV charging stations installed at the Royal Farms store in Bridgeville, DE. I approached the manager of the Royal Farms and she told me that the truck drivers park there and leave them – sometimes for days.
New Installation, Signs Ordered
I wrote an email to the director of the program at the University of Delaware. He explained that the charging stations had just been installed and that signs would be there eventually, but it may take a month or two. We had no choice but to drive slowly, conserving range, to the next available charging station which was in Rehoboth Beach.
No Truck, Cone Placed
The next time we passed through was on September 17th. This time there were no trucks parked there, but no signs yet either. I spoke with a Customer Service Leader at the Royal Farms and she helpfully offered to place orange cones by the charging stations to discourage trucks from parking there. She was able to find only one cone but cheerfully promised to order several more.
No Signs, Cone Gone
On the most recent excursion through Bridgeville on October 25th, I was disappointed to see there were no signs posted yet and the cone was gone. Fortunately, the stations were not ICEd and both stations were accessible. I hope that Royal Farms and the University of Delaware will find a permanent solution to prevent the trucks from blocking these valuable and needed charging stations that enable long-distance EV travel on the DelMarVa peninsula.
The south side of the 400 block of E. Lexington St. in Baltimore is designated a “Tow Away Zone” except for two curb-side EV charging spots. This came to my attention when a parking enforcement officer was examining the signs to determine if he had the authority to have a non plug-in car towed. The driver of that car received a ticket for blocking a charging station. I believe the officer said it was classified as a “code 99, all other parking violations” citation. I thought it was kind of odd that the two parking spots reserved for EV charging had become something of a safe harbor from the risk of an impound ticket in that area.
I asked the Parking Authority of Baltimore City why those EV charging spots are not included in the Tow Away Zone. They responded that there is no authorization in the Baltimore City Code providing for impoundment of non-EVs when they park in EV charging spots.
There happens to be several spaces reserved for Zipcar parking on the other side of that same street. I went on Google Street View and saw that they have signs saying, “No Parking, Tow Away Zone, Reserved for Zipcars only” with a red arrow pointing toward the zip car spaces. It turns out that language was added to the law to allow spots reserved for car-share vehicles to be designating as an impound area. Here is the section of the Baltimore City Code that addresses the impounding area for car-sharing spaces.
§ 31-107. Car-sharing spaces.
(a) “Car-sharing program” defined.
“Car-sharing program” means a program by which an entity offers the use of motor vehicles to its members and patrons on a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week basis, charging for the use of these vehicles on a time-used basis.
(b) Impounding area.
Impounding areas include those locations on the streets, on public-metered parking lots, and in City-owned parking facilities that the Director of Transportation reserves for parking vehicles used in a car-sharing program approved by the Director.
It appears that the code will have to be amended in order to provide for impounding of ICE vehicles that block the charging stations in Baltimore City.
Howard County passed the first law in the state of Maryland to specifically allow for impounding of non plug-in vehicles that block a charging station. My council representative initiated that bill with my encouragement. Perhaps a resident of Baltimore City can contact their city representative and urge them to consider legislation to address this. I will be happy to help.