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Alternate Side Parking Returns

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Snowbanks and parked cars narrowed the traveled way on busy Elm Street, January 21, 2019. Photo by J. Gregory Gerdel.

Montpelier is bringing back alternate side parking, which will be enforced between Nov. 15 and April 1 on most residential streets. The downtown area has its own set of regulations, with designated overnight parking shifted between the two large parking lots behind city hall by days of the week, said Public Works Operations Manager Zach Blodgett, the civil engineer who designed the alternate parking system.

With the even/odd system, parking is allowed on the side of the street with even address numbers on even calendar days and on the odd-numbered address side on odd calendar days. Each side of the street will be appropriately signed, Blodgett said. Alternate side restriction is in force throughout the day, midnight to 5:00 p.m. and does not end in the morning as the bans did in previous years. The window for moving vehicles to the other side of the street is between 5:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

A Brief, Snowbound History

The tangle of plowing, parking, snowbanks, side-swiped mirrors, and trash bins is a longstanding problem in Montpelier. Until the winter of 2020–21, the city would ban all on-street parking overnight in anticipation of, during, and following storms until streets could be cleared. The ensuing chaos of ticketing and towing would bring a blizzard of aggravated phone calls from residents and visitors. 

The new strategy, implemented last year, is designed to reduce congestion, allowing Public Works to more efficiently remove snow from streets, parking lots and sidewalks. Before this strategy, curbside snow banks would constrict travelways with cars parked on both sides of a street, making snow removal next to impossible.

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Less Towing, More Tickets

The first winter of alternate side parking dramatically reduced the number of vehicles towed and impounded by hundreds compared with the peak years of the winter bans. 

A summary of ticketing and towing incidents during the past three winters shows that the number of parking tickets spiked at 1,212 during the first winter of alternate side of the street parking. In contrast, the incidence of vehicles towed dropped from more than 200 during earlier winters when the bans were in force to just 25 over the previous winter. 

After Nov. 15, Public Works will not start with a warning flier on cars parked on the wrong side of the street. After experiencing public confusion and frustration when some ticketed drivers put their tickets on other’s cars last year, “It’s probably better to jump right into it,” Blodgett said. A map of winter parking regulations, which Blodgett expects to be updated soon to reflect any changes, will be found on the city’s website: montpelier-vt.org/1209/Mapping-Application

Invasion of the Trash Bins

Sidewalk plow operators have a challenge when trash bins left in the middle of a sidewalk block their path, requiring them either to get out and move wrongly placed bins every 50 feet, or go around them and leave the sidewalk unplowed in that spot. This year the city’s flyer about alternate side parking will include a graphic about where to place trash bins so haulers can empty them and snow removal can proceed efficiently. The flyer will be included in the upcoming water bill mailing, Blodgett said.