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Selectmen May Change Parking Rules

Selectmen on Monday night discussed possible changes in how the town charges late fees and enforces violations at parking lots, both at the train stations and downtown.

If you have a train station parking permit, you may have less time to renew it in the future, and if you're not on time, you could lose your permit faster.

That was one of the changes selectmen voiced support for during a discussion Monday on parking lot rules and enforcement at town-owned lots both at the train stations and downtown.

Although the Board of Selectmen made no decisions about changing the rules at Monday night's meeting, they indicated that they expect to change them in the future.

When commuters with permits fail to renew them on time, the town has given them months to get the renewals in and without a penalty. Kilduff suggested that a penalty be assessed after a certain length of time for anyone still wishing to renew, then throwing the late-renewer off the list of those with permits so that someone on the very long waiting list can get a chance at a spot.

Currently commuters on the waiting lists have to wait seven or eight years to get a parking permit at one of the railroad stations in Darien. Until then they have to pay higher rates in day parking or make other arrangements for their cars.

Karl Kilduff and Director Jeremy Ginsberg each wrote memorandums to the Board of Selectmen about possible changes to town parking lot regulations (both memos are attached to this article).

Ginsberg's memo was about a possible town policy for business vehicles that are "marked" with advertising and that park in town parking lots. About three to five businesses would be affected.

Kilduff was at Monday night's meeting and discussed some of the possibilities he presented. Ginsberg was not, but board members said they'll ask him to come to a future meeting. Most of the discussion centered around railroad station parking.

Other rules changes that were popular among the selectmen:

  • Raising the cost of day parking from $3, since Darien's low rate (lower than elsewhere in the area, where day parking is often $5) may be attracting out-of-town residents to take advantage of the discount. No particular price was suggested, but selectmen said the idea seems to be a good one.
  • Raising the current $15 fine for parking in one of the few parking spaces reserved for at the parking lot.
  • Possibly using a pay-station parking system (as is done in downtown New Canaan and downtown Stamford) or even an online system (as is done in Norwalk) for day parking.
  • Having the parking lot ranger use an electronic license plate reader (LPR), since that could result in identifying cars without permits much faster. One drawback: The readers cost $18,000 a piece.

Jim Cameron's comments

Jim Cameron, who leads the Connecticut Railroad Commuter Council, told the selectmen they were "really nibbling around the edges" in their discussion. The real solution to Darien's commuter parking problems, he said, was building a parking deck at the Noroton Heights station.

The state Department of Transportation is increasing the capacity of the railroad by 15 percent, but neither the state nor communities who lease and control the railroad stations have expanded parking or bus shuttles to the stations, he said. The state did once, "in an abrupt fashion," suggest a deck at the Noroton Heights station, but nothing came of that proposal, he said.

Lack of parking at the stations is a drag on property values, Cameron said. Meanwhile, as some commuters pay higher daily prices, spaces reserved for permit-holders are often empty, he said.

Board members directed Kilduff to research options and come up with alternatives or proposals on using various technologies such as pay stations, online and cell-phone payment methods and a license plate reader, as well as other ideas discussed at the meeting.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said train stations are "owned" by communities where they're located. In fact, towns and cities lease them from the state Department of Transportation and control them.

Editor's note: This article originally was published at 6:00 a.m., Tuesday. The time stamp has been changed for layout purposes on the Home page Darien Patch.

sebastian dangerfield February 29, 2012 at 03:22 AM
chapin its not elitist, its pragmatic. what should the guy do who works from 10am to 11pm do? Go in earlier? So all the wall street guys automatically get the spots, because their working time is earlier, if their total hours are not? Parking passes based on a waiting list makes sense. They indeed all pay taxes--(maybe some more than others? so is that relevant? or is just paying one dollar good enough, chapin?) The strange thing in your post is you advocate for 'first come first serve" but not when you arrive in town or connecticut. just that day. So first come first served is good--? Just not on in terms of arrival in town? Come on--? I guess you commute early?
max February 29, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Yes, use the cops we already pay for, and the LPR's that we have already bought.
max February 29, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Issue a pass to every resident that wants one, noting that it allows you to park, but does not guarantee a spot. Same pass for Noroton Heights and Darien Allow day passes and annual passes to all use the same lot. Enforcement will figure it out. Start with that and see how it goes. Then if necessary review pricing.
young lee February 29, 2012 at 08:29 PM
(1) direct access to and from rt95 is a terrible and dangerous idea. it would also attract car thieves to the lot. (2) building a parking deck would take a while and would reduce number of spaces for years. (3) we need to make sure none of the current permits are counterfeit copies and that the permits match the vehicle (i.e., not resold on aftermarket) (4) finally, i've always been a longtime proponent of tripling the parking rates THEN rebating the entire increase at yearend if the user provide proof of commuting (e.g. 10 months worth of monthly train passes in their name). valid users would see no increase, and it would weed out the casual users.
max March 01, 2012 at 12:10 AM
What about eliminate the fee. Use one pass for parking at beach, commuter lot, cherry lawn, library, and maybe the dump also. Since much of this is covered by taxes every taxpayer has really already paid for these. Non-residents could pay a different rate that reflects the fact they have not paid the tax portion of these costs.
Jim Cameron March 01, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Young... I like #4. Parking should go to those who need it most, ie daily commuters. Why not require permit renewers to show a used monthly pass to get a permit for the next year?
Jim Cameron March 01, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Max... Dream on! The parking lots are owned by the CDOT which expects rent. Also, parking revenues pay for station repairs, repaying, PD patrols, etc Now, if the town wants to buy the Koons lot and establish resident-only parking, that's a separate discussion.
Jim Cameron March 01, 2012 at 12:29 AM
1. We DO have more riders than seats. Just look at all the standees. 2. Metro-North and CDOT have said they will put more trains where there is more parking... And may reduce service to towns which refuse their overtures to add parking.
Karen Brewer March 01, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Pay your fee when the pass expires with thirty day grace period.....then you lose your spot.Some sort of electronic tracking is necessary to see which permit holders are retianing a pass but not using the space or worse selling them to someone else....
Ellyn Coyne March 01, 2012 at 12:20 PM
The price of parking permits should go up to match those of surrounding towns and the voucher parking should stay the same, since everyone using the voucher lot is commuting daily. The person that is not yet able to get a permit should not be penalized for that be raising the price from $3 to $5. The voucher lot is half way filled by 6:15am telling me that these are not people going into the city for the day. We have the longest wait in the surrounding areas for a permit. I agree that we should look into a parking garage or limit the lot to residents.
Chapin March 01, 2012 at 12:34 PM
@ Luca, My commute times vary from the 5:59am train out of Noroton Heights to the 11:48am train out of Noroton and all times between. Your erroneous assumptions always make me laugh. I don't work at a bank but own my own business. Anecdotally using this week as an example, the earliest train I took was 6:22am to the latest @ 11:48am (Noroton Heights). I believe Mr. Sini has observed this also, the permit lot was maybe 2/3 full at 6 and at 11. The same spots appear to be open every day no matter what time of day I commute so it is hard to argue late arrivers are being discriminated against. They might have to walk 25 extra steps but they have a spot. I am sure the town has accurate daily data but to suggest their is a space constraint at Noroton Heights from a daily commuter's perspective is not believable. The Darien station might be different given the # of spaces. If you allow interchangeable parking between both lots, it could possibly solve the problem. As for your first come first serve issue, parking is a public service, much like fire, police, park access and education. Public service does not care if you moved here yesterday or over 10 years ago (like our family). You are part of the community and should have access to the community services, parking being a key service for most Darien residents.
sebastian dangerfield March 01, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Parking is nothing like fire or police. Sorry. While it serves your argument, to compare police access to parking --it is simply ludicrous. (and I laugh) In your police example, and your affinity for first come first served- i got locked out of my house, and you have had a heart attack, but I called first, so I get the police access first. Right? Or actually are they nothing alike. Parking is a limited resource that probably only 15-20% of the residents utilize with any regularity. 70-80% dont care--is that the same thing as police service? Just out of curiosity, before you had a NH sticker, and you took the 1148, where did you park? You complain about open spaces in NH --and yes there are , in general, 30 ish unused spaces a day---if they issued 100 more passes, or eliminated passes -where would you park for your 1148? Personally I think first come first served, applies to permits--and not to when you arrive at the lot. That would be unfair to those who arrive at work later than others. In terms of 'erroneous (statements) you say its 2/3 full at 6am And at 11? No one parks from 605am to 1055am? Bizarre. At 11am there are maybe 30 spots left. But Im pretty sure that there are more 85 spots at Noroton heights. I laugh at 2/3. try 30 open out of im guessing 400.
sebastian dangerfield March 01, 2012 at 03:02 PM
A question for jim cameron, or anyone who knows the answer. Because of Darien's location --one stop to stamford then express. Right off 95 and a direct path from New Canaan, --darien gets lots of out of town parkers ,at both NH (from 95 travellers) and Darien RR from New Canaan. Is it possible to construct a system that would give relief to Darien residents? A darien sticker that somehow would mean that you get a discount on parking? Im not sure how station maintenance is handled, but I remember Evonne Klein changed the system, I beleive from the State maintaining the stations, to the Town. If the town is paying for parking enforcement and station maintenance, if they charge out of town residents 10 a day and in town residents 3 a day-that would either increase revenue, or solve parking woes. Stamford charges around 8-10 a day. Raise the daily rate --raise the monthly rate. take whatever profit results and return to the town for its beaches. If you make parking 10 a day, less New canaan and other residents would park there, and you solve a lot of problems. Also , while at it--raise the cost of a beach sticker. 40 bucks or about 30 cents a day, cant pay for the guys at the booths, lifeguards and upkeep of the beaches.
Jim Cameron March 01, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Luca... Again, the parking lots at both Darien and Noroton Hts stations are on state land. CDOT is the landlord and expects rent from the tenant, The Town. Because it is state land, Darien residents cannot get priority or different pricing than anyone else. Under Klein the payment of rent back to CDOT was changed. Parking revenue goes into a special fund which pays for upkeep, repairs, maintenance. So others' suggestions of "free" parking make no sense. The stations may be in Darien, but they are regional asset, open to all. We (in Darien) just have the benefit of being closer to the trains.
Jim Cameron March 01, 2012 at 03:45 PM
You think parking is a mess here? Wait 'til you see what's in store for Stamford? CDOT is cashing in its chips and looking to sell off the old rail station garage to a private developer and move 1000 parking spaces up to 1/4 mile away from the station! Details at: http://t.co/LO7OQj5g
Shredder March 01, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Jim --when you say "cannot" you mean "won't", correct? Surely CT can impose status based restrictions.
Shredder March 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Jim makes no sense here. Whether or not Darien owns, leases, or merely manages the lots has no barring on its ability to differentiate pricing between residents/non-residents. If it makes more sense to you Mr. Cameron, imagine the permit price was doubled "for everyone!", and then Darien chose to give a "rebate" to residents who proved they were permit owners...
Ed Infurna March 01, 2012 at 06:58 PM
"Whether or not Darien owns, leases, or merely manages the lots has no barring on its ability to differentiate pricing between residents/non-residents." Wait. so your argument is the Town of Darien can set prices and policies on land and facilities it doesn't own? Seriously?
Shredder March 01, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Yes seriously. You think that ownership is necessary for retailers to set prices?
sebastian dangerfield March 01, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Ed, The town does set the price. The BOS just raised prices. Right? Im relatively certain that the town does not own the street in front of say, The Goose. But it sets parking regulations/policy.
Ed Infurna March 01, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I stand corrected on that point. The town owes a certain amount of revenue to CDOT, but does have the privilege of determining the cost of parking permits. However, my original point in my response to the original post ("Whether or not Darien owns, leases, or merely manages the lots has no barring on its ability to differentiate pricing between residents/non-residents") was lost: From everything I have read and been able to find, because the lots are CDOT-owned and leased by the town, not town owned, the town does not have the option to set different prices for resident and non-resident permits.
Ed Infurna March 01, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Further, with regards to my following statement ("...your argument is the Town of Darien can set prices and policies on land and facilities it doesn't own?"), while the pricing for individual permits can be determined by the town, flexibility on policies (such as different resident and non-resident pricing) appears to be limited by the fact the land is leased from the state, thru either state law or the terms of the lease.
sebastian dangerfield March 01, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Ed- Again--maybe they dont have the ability to set all policy, but I think they have the ability to set policy. The waiting list....the number of permits granted, the fact that some are metered and some by permit, for example, are policies set by the town. With respect to who can park there---as far as I know, it is open to all state residents.....whether or not pricing can be different, I dont know. Can I ask you, Ed, are you guessing as to the pricing possibility? Or is that something that you know? I still think, even if there is a mandate that all pricing is the same--you can provide rebates at the town level for whatever they choose to provide rebates for. It may be an administrative nightmare--but I cant think of a reason why if you charge 1250 for a permit, why the town cant give tax credits for residents or business owners to commuters similar to tax breaks for senior citizens. Or their decision for example to insure first responders
young lee March 02, 2012 at 03:01 AM
is there an explicit guarantee that current permit holders are always offered renewal? if not, then darien should make every year into a lottery system. or a camp-out line (similar to rowayton). other ideas (only meant to stir the imagination): (1) one free permit with each new affordable housing unit built or designated (2) high school teams and clubs offering valet parking services in the early morning and evening. (beats having the car washes) (3) professional valet parking with portable double level parking stacker systems (4) shuttle bus from satellite parking spaces (but from where? -- beaches?)
max March 02, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Yes, but the rent is being paid now by the town weather the pass reciepts cover that rent or not. Simply a journal entry. So, I am suggesting that the current money collected (which is what 500 x $400 = $200,000) will be made up by additional sales at a lower rate plus a higher rate for the passes that cannot prove residency.
max March 02, 2012 at 01:20 PM
If beach parking can be at different rates (and it is in Greenwich) then parking can also.
max March 02, 2012 at 01:24 PM
@Ed, I hear you, but Greenwich fought this fight over beach access a few years ago and I recall the results were something like: you must allow all, a different rate is allowed, but that other rate must be reasonable. I am certain that if pushed, the same would result for train parking. So we could have an out of town rate, but it could not be 10 times the resident rate.
max March 02, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I think your ideas are more appropriate in higher density areas.
Ed Infurna March 02, 2012 at 04:00 PM
@max The difference is Greenwich owns their beaches (at least above the high water mark)...the state forced it open, but allowed Greenwich to set policy, and as I recall, while they were able to tier their access for residents vs non-residents, they had to be somewhat reasonable (for example, saying "OK we are open to non-residents for $1,000/day" would not constitute "allowing access" to outsiders.) But the state owns the lots, and apparently (I say apparently, I I have heard it, even though I can't find the lease on line, and don't really have enough interest to file an FOI request for it, nor have I got the time to see if it is a state statute somewhere) there are constraints on the town teiring access. If it is allowed, I'm all for it...I just don't beleive it is. And I would imagine that suggestions like Luca's (to rebate local residents, for example) would probably be seen to violate the spirit of the restrictionat minimum, and could result in the state refusing to renew the lease, and taking exclusive control of the property back, much to the town's loss.
max March 03, 2012 at 12:22 PM
@ Ed, yes, like you, I too do not have enough information to really form any good policy ideas nor do I have the time to invest in the necessary research, so I guess that leaves us all just making stuff up. Hopefully, the real policy makers can take the joist of these suggestions and try yo improve the current policy.

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