Employee permits, new meters among changes to downtown parking
NEW CANAAN — In order to avoid getting parking tickets, several times a day Kate Odry leaves the shop where she works part time in downtown New Canaan to feed the meter at whichever proximate lot she’s parked at that day.
It’s not that she necessarily minds the walk. It’s the cost, multiplied over days and weeks, and compared to her part-time pay rate, that bother her.
“If you work part time in town, it’s really difficult,” Odry said. “I have to pay 10 quarters a day to feed the meter during my shift. It gets untenable.”
Odry is not the only downtown employee unsatisfied with parking options, and the result is, according to town officials, that rather than pay for parking like Odry, many workers are using free, albeit time-restricted, spaces on Main and Elm streets generally reserved for shoppers.
“The shopkeepers and employees play the downtown car shuffle. They move their cars every two hours,” said Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert, who was walking to his Main Street business, Capital Management, on a recent Tuesday. Walbert happens to enjoy walking, and said he’s not dissuaded from coming downtown because of the lack of parking options.
But some in town feel inconvenienced.
“It’s really a deterrent,” Odry said. “People who shop in town shouldn’t be penalized.”
Parking Bureau Manager Stacy Miltenberg has taken steps to rectify the problem for downtown employees and consumers alike.
In May, Miltenberg opened up 40 permit spaces — 20 in the Morse Court lot and 20 in the Park Street lot — reserved for people who travel by car to New Canaan for work. The rate of $429 a year is less than a downtown employee would likely pay over the course of a year feeding the meter.
“They are basically business permits for any employees that work at any business in town,” Miltenberg said.
Between May 1 and May 26, the permits went fast. Miltenberg worried the number of applicants would exceed 40 and necessitate a lottery, but exactly 40 applications came in.
“It was people that I know have been parking on the street and have been frustrated with the parking options. I’ve noticed a couple of people who were abusers now parked in the lots,” Murphy said. “It’s 40 less cars that we’re dealing with on Elm and Main streets. That’s got to be an improvement.”
In addition, and to further mitigate parking issues downtown, Miltenberg and the parking bureau installed seven new parking meters, replacing the older models that were the cause of a high volume of complaints.
“The response has been pretty great because I haven’t had any calls since installation saying they can’t work the machine,” Miltenberg said. “People are able to pay and they’re able to pay correctly.”
Two of the new solar-powered models were installed in both the Morse Court and Park Street lots. The Locust Avenue, Playhouse and Center School lots each got one new machine, too.
For Joni Jablansky, who moved to the town in the last month and is already well aware of how difficult finding a parking spot can be on Elm and Main, the machines are a positive step.
“We’re very glad they got the new machines,” Jablansky said.