22 Aug 2014
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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.

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