Hearing on train lot parking regs continued to Sept. 16
The scratch-off vouchers for daily train station parking are set to be a thing of the past come October, and in their place will be a new system of paying at new stations or by way of smartphone app.
What's more, the Board of Selectmen is looking to increase the daily parking fee from $3 to $5, but some commuters felt there wasn't ample communication between the board and the hundreds of commuters in town who ride the trains from Darien into New York.
Jim Cameron, member of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, told the selectmen at their meeting Monday that he felt something as important as the parking changes should have included greater outreach to those who would be affected.
"This ordinance will affect hundreds of people who park at the two train stations," Cameron said. The selectmen meetings are aired on TV79, the local TV station, but Cameron said he doesn't believe commuters watch the meetings when they are replayed. In an effort to inform the commuters, Cameron printed leaflets to place on car windshields and hung signs at the train stations.
The signs, which alerted commuters to the public hearing, are what drew Dickson McIntire to the session.
"I was dismayed when I saw Jim's signs," McIntire said. "It seems like something you would want to tell the commuters."
More InformationFact box
McIntire asked what the cost benefit would be to the commuters. Selectman David Campbell told those in attendance that the money from the parking permits goes directly back to the train lots.
"We're not taking the money and planting plants downtown," Campbell said.
Cameron questioned if the new technology would hinder the daily commuter who plans out their mornings "to the second."
"Any time you have a technology change, there will be a transition that will be a challenge to some people," Stevenson said. "We need to move to a 2013 system of parking. Scratch-off vouchers are antiquated at best."
Administrative Officer Karl Kilduff did research into surrounding communities that use a similar pay system and found that 75 percent of the other communities successfully pay for their parking with the smartphone app.
Of the 30 train stations on the Metro-North New Haven line, which includes Darien and Noroton Heights, 27 charge $5 or more for daily parking. Bethel, Darien and Noroton Heights are the only stations on the New Haven and branch lines to charge less than that.
Among other issues the few commuters brought up at the public hearing included the shortage of parking spaces and the years-long waiting list for a permit.
"It is my hope that over the next year, we will be able to do a comprehensive parking study to take into consideration all these issues," Stevenson said, but added that they are looking to help commuters today.
"Will there be glitches in the system?" Stevenson asked. "Absolutely, but I don't believe that's reason enough to not move forward with this technology that, in the end, will be a benefit to the system."
One of the benefits of increasing the permit and daily parking fees, Stevenson said, is to defray the cost of technology and security, noting that she is looking to install cameras following the death of Kevin Murphy on the Noroton Heights train tracks on March 6. No witnesses came forward following the accident and there are no videos on the platform.
While in favor of the implementation of the new system, Selectman John Lundeen said, Oct. 1, which is the day the new system is set to take effect, is "an awfully threatening date.
"We need to consider if we can fairly implement this on Oct. 1," Lundeen said.
Stevenson said that while she is "extremely eager" to move the project forward, she would be "agreeable to some reasonable time to do a more robust campaign."
The selectmen agreed to continue the public hearing to Monday, Sept. 16, to hear from more commuters, but Cameron didn't think it would matter much.
"I don't think your minds are going to change if this room was full of commuters," Cameron said. "It seems to be a pro forma process for a decision that's already made."
Lundeen told the selectmen that he felt getting more commuter input and delaying the Oct. 1 implementation are important.
The town is able to delay until Oct. 15, which is the new anticipated start date.
The new pay stations will allow daily voucher users to pay with debit or credit card or cash. Only exact change will be accepted.
In order to address the abuse of parking permits -- such as lending them to neighbors or friends or cars not registered to them -- there will be a fine of $30 for first-time offenders. Any subsequent offenses within the calendar year will result in the loss of the permit. Additionally, if permit holders do not renew them in the allotted period of time, they will be fined. If the renewal is not submitted 15 business days after the deadline, a $25 fine would be imposed. If permit holders renew their permits 30 days after the deadline, they will be fined $50.
Vouchers that already have been purchased are valid and will be accepted after Oct. 15.
email@example.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews