Thoughts on Commuter Parking

I was just reviewing and updating our WebSite and ran into a great article on commuting. It is included in this WebSite Connecticut To Philadelphia

Nobody can park or drive in New York City so we invented commuter railroads. Now it is getting harder and harder to park at commuter railroad stations!

Before we can get cars off the roads by persuading drivers to become passengers on the trains, we first have to give them a place to park their cars at the train stations. As all commuters know, station parking is a nightmare.

Many stations have a four- or five-year wait for annual permits, which can cost up to $600, and day-parking is expensive, if you can find it. In Connecticut, parking at most rail stations is owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation but administered by the local towns. That is why we have ended up with different rules and pricing.

Take Rowayton for example. Every year annual permits are handed out on a first-come, first served basis one hectic Saturday morning in May. Nobody is “grandfathered-in”. Everyone literally waits in line, often all night, every year.

This may seem fair, especially to newcomers, but it’s hardly an efficient way to manage a scarce resource.

Another idea “an auction”. Spaces would start selling online on a certain date and time with the first permit going to the highest bidder in a 24-hour period. The second permit would go to the next highest bidder, etc. There’d be no preference to those who already have permits nor by town of residency. The scarce supply of spaces would moderate the demand by price.

As it is, most towns oversell their available spaces. In Westport they sell twice as many permits as there are spaces. Why? Because the permits are too cheap and there’s never a time when everybody who has one tries to park on the same day.

People hoard their annual permits, renewing them even if they don’t use them regularly. Many have waited years to get it, and are not likely to give it up, even though they use it only one or two days a week.

Is that fair to the daily commuter who needs that space but hasn’t risen to the top of the waiting list because others won’t let go? Probably not. But unless each town raises parking permit prices and squeezes greed out of the equation, they will keep hanging onto their permit. An auction would change that.

We should let the marketplace define the price of affordability, and that’s what an auction would do most efficiently.

Of course, the other solution is to add more parking spaces. When CDOT tried adding a few spaces in Rowayton a few years back, they were pilloried. When they came to Darien and proposed more parking at Noroton Heights, they were booed out of town.

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