No easy answers to Darien railroad, downtown parking problems
Published 7:48 am, Tuesday, December 16, 2014
There was no consensus on solutions, but everyone at a Monday hearing appeared to agree that railroad station and downtown parking in Darien is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The Board of Selectmen's public hearing Monday night, held to discuss ideas on reducing the long waiting list for parking permits at the rail depots, as well as making more retail parking available downtown, attracted about 20 people.
"The one thing that I can say for sure is that the needs for commuter parking and downtown parking are dynamic," First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said. "There's not one solution that's going to satisfy the public need in perpetuity."
There are currently around 2,700 names on the combined waiting lists for permits at Darien and Noroton Heights train stations. In order to begin paring the lists, which have 10- and 7-year waits, respectively, the selectmen have proposed implementing a $10 annual fee for people to keep their spot on the list.
"The response rate to our letters is less than 50 percent," Karl Kilduff, business administrator, said, explaining that people who fail to send in the fee within a 30-day period will be removed from the waiting list.
"We do know, anecdotally, that people further down the list are willing to pay anything for a space," he said, calling the fee "an annual affirmative act (to) keep the wait list as accurate and vital as possible."
One man suggested the should be higher, but the selectmen and Kilduff said the intention wasn't to make money but encourage commitment.
"It's certainly not intended to be a major revenue source," Kilduff said.
Another plan under consideration is moving those who hold rail permits for the Grove Street parking lot to the Leroy West lot, allowing Grove Street to become solely for downtown retail parking.
"I waited a long time to get that permit," said Art Ruger, who has commuted from town for the past 32 years and parked in the Grove Street lot for the last 13. "I would ask that if there is an attrition rate that is acceptable, that maybe you grandfather the people that are there," he said.
Paul Kreuch, who also parks at Grove Street, called the move "a punishment to people I don't really think deserve it."
He said the parking issues are ones of "allocation," suggesting that the Goodwives Shopping Center parking lot, though private, may be a good place to strike a deal for commuter overflow parking.
"We wrote you a letter in the spring asking if you would return the Grove Street lot to retail parking," she said. "Personally I'm thrilled that you have moved on this."
"It was short-term parking for many, many years and it should be returned to that," said Cameron, explaining that because of the downtown parking shortage her commission has had to deny some development applications.
"It is a nice problem to have," she said. "It's great that we're having this little revitalization, (but) there's just not enough parking."
"No matter how many daily parking spots that you have, they will always be filled, because we have two of the best Metro-North train stations in the system (and) they will always be in demand," Stevenson said.
Another idea under consideration is to allow people to park in empty permit spaces after 10 a.m.
"To do this I don't think is practical," said William Stiles, who noted that flex-time work schedules are becoming more common these days. "We need flexibility," he said. "You can't pigeon hole people's work schedules."
"If there are that many people waiting to park," he said, "at some point you have to build ... a two-tier parking garage."
"These are short-term fixes," he said of the various proposals, "without taking into account what's going on."