New Rules: Parking by
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Prompted By Parking

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Trick or Treat. Judging from the number of ticketed cars I saw while driving all over my urban-suburban community just before Halloween last year, there were entire streets on which every parked car had received a citation. I guess most people were tricked and the city treated itself to tons of extra revenue. This bonus income came at the expense of residents who were unaware of yet another new parking rule. Some blocks had twenty ticketed cars. At $75 a crack, that’s $1,500 per block. Pretty good haul for the city coffers.

I love to shop local and support the small businesses that still exist in my community, but the first consideration is always parking.

Starting November 1 and continuing through December 15, residents have more parking rules to remember. The city added seasonal bright orange stickers to its parking signs to let folks know that, according to the city website, “additional fall street cleaning dates have been added for residential streets to ensure debris is cleared in the late fall months. These dates are listed in bold in the provided schedule below. Signage will be posted and parking restrictions will be enforced.”

I’m confused. It appears we now have three parking schedules to keep track of during the year. When this new fall cleaning ends on December 15, we swing into winter snow parking. That one has to do with how much snow has fallen and which streets are considered snow routes. After that, from March 1 to November 1, there is a different set of rules for street cleaning. I suppose people can get used to these shifting seasonal rules on the streets where they live, although clearly from the number of tickets issued, it may take a while.

My city asks a lot of its residents and visitors when it comes to parking. In many parts of town, parking is a challenge. It’s hard to imagine where all of the cars could go to make it possible for this additional leaf clearing service. Since so many cars prevented any leaves from being removed, can towing be far behind? That will cost $145 plus storage charges when residents find a way to claim their vehicles from North Shore Towing.

Driving around in search of a parking spot is also a challenge due to road work. Yes, we all want infrastructure improvement and the roads need repair, but how are the businesses that have managed to hang in through the pandemic supposed to survive, especially the restaurants that depend on food pick-up?

Before the pandemic closed a local coffee shop, I paid $75 to have coffee with my friends. Because there were no street spots where I usually park, I turned onto a side street. What luck. There was one spot left on the block so I took it. Because I was running late, I didn’t walk up to read the parking sign for street cleaning. I stupidly assumed if it was forbidden that day, there would not be cars parked all the way down the block. Wrong.

When I came out to retrieve my car, there was the ticket. In fact, the city really cleaned up as I’m guessing a dozen cars received citations. Yep, you get a ticket and you get a ticket and you get a ticket. That was another nice haul for the city. I paid online (an added $1 service fee) and received an email thanking me for successfully paying my citation. It was my error, but I think a $75 charge was rather excessive.

As a 47-year resident of this city, I have accepted the fact that metered parking exists on busy streets and that, unlike other suburbs, I have to pay to park. Lately, however, things have gotten out of control. Parking meters have been replaced by boxes in which you have to enter your license plate number and a credit card. To avoid this inconvenience, there is a handy parking app. For a surcharge of 35 cents, I can enter the zone number from the comfort of my car. If I can find the sign with the zone number. In the winter, climbing over mounds of snow to reach the box or find the zone number sign and removing my gloves in below-zero temps to insert my credit card or push the correct screens on my phone can be a challenge.

This new system does not permit meter feeding. If you stay, you pay. I guess that’s fair enough, but once your time is up, you must move your car to a spot not too close to your previous spot. Otherwise, through some technological wizardry, your car will show up as illegally parked and you will receive a ticket.

About that two-hour limit. That’s not enough time to dine at a nice restaurant or visit several stores in the same block (pre-COVID). It’s also not enough time for some doctor or dentist appointments. Two years ago, I had extensive dental work that took more than two-hour meter limit. To avoid being ticketed, I was forced to use one of the parking garages, which I hate. To my dismay, the first several floors had two-hour limits or were reserved for Target. After winding around to reach a floor that allowed me to stay for three hours, for which I paid $5, I was ready to fight the biting winds and cold temperatures to trek to my dentist’s office.

I love to shop local and support the small businesses that still exist in my community, but the first consideration is always parking. If it is too much of a hassle to park, I can drive ten more minutes to Old Orchard where there are many more places to shop and tons of free parking. My community needs to help the business community and its residents by rethinking how it handles parking rules and violations. All of these rules may raise more revenue in the short term, but they are misguided in terms of making my city a friendly and desirable place to visit.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Sounds like a parking nightmare. It certainly is a disincentive to driving anywhere, which is good only if there are reasonable alternatives for people. Many of our communities have been made so car-centric that we have created a difficult situation.

  2. Marian says:

    Yikes, I hadn’t thought about all the complexity with leaves and snow, Laurie, but Evanston sure is making it impossible to shop! My mom’s neighborhood in Oakland is difficult, so in a pinch I’ve resorted to parking at Whole Foods for a couple of hours and then moving my car. Palo Alto has a system that at least is easy to understand, with free two- or three-hour parking in zones indicated by color. You must move your car out of the zone when your time is up, which can be a pain, but then you can park in another zone.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    You make a great point about providing enough parking to support the local shops, Laurie. I always carry a roll of quarters so that I can feed the meter, but I think my days are numbered and I’m going to have to learn how to use those parking apps you’ve described. They are springing up all over my area too. That orange sign designating which days are street cleaning days during which months would drive anyone bananas! Your town is asking a lot of its residents (and charging a lot for those tickets) to provide various services. You are right. They took in a big haul the day you took your photo.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I used to carry all of those quarters but the cost of parking kept going up and now I have to use the credit card or the app. The street cleaning thing drives me nuts when I have to park on my daughter’s block. She lives close to the L station, so people park on her block and walk to the train, using up all of the spots for residents and their actual visitors. The neighborhood has complained to no avail for limiting parking to under 6 hours unless you have a resident sticker. Makes me think they don’t care because there is no electronic way to ticket offenders.

    • John Shutkin says:

      I strongly recommend the parking apps for parking in the Boston area, Betsy. They even allow you to get additional time via your phone; no need to return to the meter. The only problem is that every town (or part of town, in the case of Brookline and Boston) seems to use a separate app, so I now have four or five downloaded and I need to make sure that I am using the right one.

  4. Laurie, it seems parking can be a hassle everywhere!

    For some comic relief read a book that both John and I mentioned,
    TEPPER IS NOT GOING OUT by Calvin Trillin.

  5. Suzy says:

    Laurie, you do a great job of describing all the obstacles to urban parking. And it’s true, when I am deciding whether to go to a certain business, the difficulty of parking is an important consideration. They changed the meters in downtown Sacramento to expire at 10 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., and the result is that I no longer patronize downtown restaurants that I used to love. Thanks for this story.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      That’s exactly what I mean. These are short-sighted changes that make it challenging for the businesses that are hanging in by a thread. Here, Sunday used to be free. Then it was the same as any other day. Now, I think Sunday mornings are free (for church?).

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Misery loves company, Laurie. When I lived/worked in New York, I thought there could be no more draconian parking laws than NYC’s. Well, Evanston is clearly trying its best — or, really, worst — in this regard.

    And yes, I understand both the revenue needs of cities and their desire to limit vehicular traffic. But, as you well note, at some point the interests of making the city “a friendly and desirable place to visit” must also come into play. It almost sounds easier to park in Chicago and walk a few miles north. My condolences.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Chicago is also a pain, but all of the suburbs near Evanston are much less draconian about parking. I think it’s a short sighted attempt to bring in money. Every “improvement”seems to make things more costly and difficult.

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