Sean Maloney discovered firsthand how confusing the downtown winter parking ban can be. The Montpelier resident recently parked in what he believed was a designated overnight parking lot only to find the next day that his car had been towed.
“The signs that they put up are very confusing,” Maloney said. “It’s like, ‘You can park here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,’ but when it changes over to 1 am, they’ll tow your car if you’re in the wrong lot.”
The winter parking ban is in effect from November 15 to April 1. On many streets, overnight parking is prohibited all winter between 1 am and 7 am. On other streets, parking is allowed except when the city issues a weather or snow removal alert.
The city’s efforts to inform locals of the parking ban include fliers distributed throughout the city in the weeks ahead of the ban, as well as posts on the City’s website—montpelier-vt.org—Facebook page, and Front Porch Forum when a ban is called. Residents may also sign up for text or call alerts at alerts.gov or call 262-6200 for a recorded message.
Despite these efforts, some residents continue to struggle to keep the information straight, and some, like Maloney, describe the parking ban rules as “crazy.”
“On East State Street you can park in various places. And then, [parking is allowed] on the north side from this street to this street, and then on the south side from this street to this street,” Maloney said.
Crosstown Towing was contracted by the city in 2018 to tow cars parked in violation of the ban. Owner Ian Lacasse said winter parking information is available online to those who “actually sit down to read it.”
“If it’s parked on the street [in violation of the ban] it’s getting towed,” Lacasse said. “And if they’re confused about it, they can get on a free hotline they can call.”
“We’ve been doing it since last January,” Lacasse said, adding that the towing company formerly contracted by the city often failed to tow ticketed cars, perhaps adding to residents’ confusion.
“Crosstown Towing does a great job when they are called out,” City Manager Bill Fraser said, adding that “there may be times on a good weather night when they aren’t called by the police or public works and someone only gets a ticket.”
“I think if there’s an oncoming storm, then the parking ban is valid,” Maloney said. But if weather conditions are good, “I don’t see why we couldn’t park on the streets [with the permanent ban].”
The reason for the permanent bans, according to Fraser, is “due to narrow width and the ability to get emergency vehicles through when snow conditions are present.”
Maloney said he complained to city officials after his car was towed.
“I actually went directly into City Hall after I found out that my car had been towed because it was $85 to get your car, then you have to pay a ticket on top of it,” Maloney said, adding that the city employee he spoke to acknowledged that the parking signs were “confusing.”
“So, now every time I park I go into the police station and say, ‘Which [lot] can I park in tonight?’” Maloney said.
“One of the city lots [behind City Hall] alternates parking by side of lot by night,” Fraser said. “Therefore, one side can be parked in on a Monday night, the other side on a Tuesday night. Some people find the signs for this confusing.”
Maloney said he now keeps a printout of the map from the Montpelier city website in his car to avoid parking on streets affected by the winter ban.