Is Graffiti the Right Response to ICEing Problem?

ECO-01eI got an unpleasant surprise when I stopped by the charging stations at the Columbia Association Athletic Club yesterday. When I looked down while plugging in my car, I saw red spray painted lettering on the concrete and asphalt that spelled out “ELECTRIC CAR ONLY” in crude graffiti-like style. I became angry when I saw this. The spray paint had the look of vandalism except that the message appeared to reflect the frustrations of EV drivers that are often being “ICE’d” at that location.

The natural assumption is that an EV driver took matters into their own hands and spray painted the parking spots in an attempt to keep out vehicles that don’t plug in. That makes the EV community look bad in my view. No matter how frustrating the ICEing problem is, that is not the way to handle it. I hope it turns out that there is some other explanation for the red paint, but the perception is likely to prevail that an EV driver is responsible with all the negative implications that go along with that perception.

CA-CRV01I’m not saying that ICEing is not a problem there either. In fact, I think it is a big problem and I’ve been asking the Columbia Association for more effective signage ever since they installed the charging stations there. When the Columbia Association responded that the lack of enforceable legislation was a reason they would not place signs to reserve the spots for EVs only, I lobbied the Howard County Council for a law. After a lot of work from many people, Howard County now has that law. But the legislation requires a sign that meets certain standards in order to be effective and enforceable.

CA-sign01There is a question if the current signs used by the Columbia Association meets that standard. They certainly do not seem to be effective because gas cars are still parking in the spots. I have brought this to their attention and have asked officials from Howard County Government to help them determine the proper sign to use. All we can do is wait for the proper regulatory signs to be installed by the Columbia Association. That is their job, we must let them do it.


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Anti-ICEing Law Hits a Snag at Maple Lawn

The decision to erect official parking control signs that make the “anti-ICEing” laws in Montgomery and Howard counties enforceable is entirely up to the private property owner. The management of St. John Properties at Maple Lawn in Howard County have decided, after some consideration, that they will not be putting up signs at this time. It is their assessment that signs are “not needed” and they don’t think ICEing is a problem.

MLcones01Also, the orange cones that they have been diligent in keeping in place, were gone on my last visit to Maple Lawn. The cones have been an effective deterrent but they are very inconvenient to get out and move, especially in a drenching downpour as I’ve had to do several times there. The cones have also reportedly discouraged some EV drivers who thought the charging stations were off-limits to everybody.

The manager told me that the cones were a temporary measure to “train” people not to park in the charging spaces. They said that they plan to leave warning notes and perhaps tow, presumably under Howard County trespass tow statutes.

MLnote01Notes have been tried at that location under a different manager in the past. That effort was not successful.

Predictably, there was an SUV parked in one of the charging spots last night.



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Signs Planned for Columbia Association Charging Stations

New signs expected in the near future.

Good news in the effort to maintain access to charging stations in Columbia, Maryland. Jeremy Scharfenberg, the Energy Manager at Columbia Association says that based on the recent action by Howard County Council, the Columbia Association is currently working to implement new signage at all five EV charging sites that they operate.

The design of the new signs is said to have been completed and to be consistent with the signs currently posted at charging sites run by Howard County. They expect to have the signs implemented in the near future. This is a welcome development! Thanks Jeremy.


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Whole Foods Market Columbia Spots Reserved

Plug-In Only Symbols Painted at New Whole Foods Columbia Charging Stations

After being open for several weeks, the Columbia, Maryland Whole Foods Market has marked the parking spaces in front of their two charging stations with a green and white square designating the four spaces for plug-in vehicles only. There have been reports of regular gas cars parking in those spots which was to be expected before when there was no indication that the spots were reserved. Before the spaces were painted, I actually observed a number of shoppers begin to park there and upon recognizing the charging station, back out and park elsewhere. I’ve even had someone go back to move their car so that I could charge.

WFMc4From what I understand, the delay in getting the spots marked was due to rules in this particular location that had to be satisfied. Perhaps there were Columbia Association covenant approvals that needed to be obtained, I’m not sure.

Example of regulatory sign necessary for parking enforcement.

One thing I’m glad to see is that the painted squares are visible even before turning into the spots. Right now there are no signs at the front of the spaces but I have talked with the store manager and explained the new Howard County law and the requirement for official regulatory signs in order for the parking ordinance to be enforceable.

Some electric vehicle drivers that I’ve spoken with didn’t realize that both the Montgomery County law and the soon to be effective Howard County ordinance require a certain kind of sign that conforms to specific standards generally outlined in the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Just because there is a charging station, even if it has a sign saying it is a charging station, doesn’t necessarily mean that non-plug-in vehicles can be ticketed for parking there under the new county laws. It will be interesting to see if the green painted symbols alone are effective at discouraging gasoline-only vehicles from parking in front of the charging stations. If you see any that do, let us know via Twitter.


“Towing Enforced” Charging Station Signs at Mosaic District

Seven Charging Stations at Mosaic District in Falls Church, Virginia

I drove my EV to the Mosaic District in Falls Church, VA earlier this week and saw that the signs at the charging stations are a little bit different from last time I visited. The words “towing enforced” were added to the bottom of the simple black and white signs that designate, “electric car parking only while charging.”

MOMs Ford Fusion Energi
A Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid charging at MOM’s Market in Mosaic District, Falls Church, VA.

When I was there about six months ago, I spoke with one of the security guards who told me that they were proactive about keeping non-electric cars out of the spots reserved for charging. If an ICE car is observed in a charging spot, he said they put a warning notice on the car and will tow it if it is not moved in a half-hour.
When the Mosaic District first opened several years ago, the charging stations had no signs at all and were frequently ICEd. I called the General Manager and talked with him about the need for signs. He said that he wanted few signs in the garage to fit with the minimal design aesthetic. He told me he was counting on common courtesy to keep people from parking at the charging stations. I argued that many people won’t even know what the charging stations are without a sign designating them. He agreed to monitor the situation and post signs if they saw it becoming a problem. Of course, it was a problem and the signs went up. Now, with the added warning about towing, the signs will get even more respect.