While city officials say the alternate-day winter parking plan has been successful overall, Public Works is still dealing with some challenges. That effort has included strategic changes in some areas and responding to complaints.
“Once we acquainted the community with the process, it has gone beautifully in many of the neighborhoods,” Public Works Director Donna Barlow Casey said. “A variety of situations have required clarification, and we have made some changes after talking with residents. There have been occasions where people have been aggravated that they could no longer park where they used to park.”
She emphasized that Operations Manager Zach Blodgett’s ability to listen to concerns and implement changes in specific locations has been instrumental in making the transition successful. “Of course, it has helped that we haven’t had any major storms so far this winter,” she added.
Confused? Just Ask
Some people remain confused about how alternate-side parking works. Michelle Amaral, who administers parking ticket appeals at the Montpelier Police Department, reports that some people have had difficulty understanding the change from previous years. She notes that if people are confused about where to park, they can call the department for clarification 24/7 at 223-3445.
Amaral reminds callers that “when they get home in the evening, they need to park according to the odd or even date it will be tomorrow.” She also noted that the greatest number of the tickets issued in the city is for parking meter violations, not alternate-side parking problems.
The redesign of the winter parking regulations was aimed at improving snowbank removal and, in a city where many people walk, keeping sidewalks clear and safe. With the city’s maintenance staff reduced because of budget restrictions caused by the pandemic, it has been essential to operate snow removal efficiently, Barlow Casey explained. While the modest snowfall this winter has been helpful, the new system has allowed “clearing the streets to the curb,” she added.
Blodgett said that the alternate-side restriction is in force throughout the day, midnight to 5 p.m. and does not end in the morning as the winter parking bans did in previous years.
Adjustments Are Ongoing
The City has changed the parking designations in some locations — near Birchgrove Bakery, for instance. That section of Elm Street, where during the day customers are making brief stops for coffee and pastries, has been changed to No Parking 1 a.m. – 7 a.m., the same schedule as downtown.
Several of the modifications to the original plan were made to accommodate accessibility concerns for residents. An area where alternate parking proved an awkward fit was in front of the North Branch Apartments on Elm Street. Blodgett explained that he worked with Downstreet Housing and Community Development, the organization that manages the buildings, to agree on a system that allows daytime parking, mirroring the downtown schedule, Blodgett said.
Reducing Collateral Damage
Timely snowbank removal has kept the traffic flow on Montpelier’s many narrow streets safer, city officials say.
“When we had snow banks and parking on both sides of Barre Street, it became very hazardous,” Blodgett observed. “If anyone had statistics about the number of clipped side-view mirrors on Barre Street, they’re going to be way down this winter.”
During the first weeks of the new plan, Public Works staff placed information fliers on cars parked along the streets where alternate parking was required after Nov. 15. And until mid-December warning tickets were issued.
The map of the parking regulations, which Blodgett expects to be updated soon to reflect changes, can be found on the City’s website: montpelier-vt.org/1209/Mapping-Application
“If I had to give us a grade, an A minus to B plus would probably be about right,” Barlow Casey said.