Canal District Besieged By Parking Enforcement
Thursday, October 25, 2012
The area's meters were removed two years ago during construction of the district's Streetscape project. The two-hour time limit meters were upgraded and reinstalled about six months ago.
Cracking Down on Parking
John Giangregorio, president of the Canal District Business Association, said that parking enforcement in the area began to pick up about five weeks ago.
In addition to expired meters, Giangregorio said tickets have been issued for parking too close to or in front of curb cuts and driveways, even for properties where the buildings have been torn down. Parking too close to corners and intersections has also resulted in tickets for some drivers.
With the brunt of violations falling on employers, employees and patrons, Giangregorio said he has received a number of complaints from businesses.
"It just seemed like the commitment of meter enforcement officers into the area is not warranted by the parking situation in the Canal District."
While some enforcement and turnover of parking spaces for patrons and customers is needed, said Giangregorio, the area is a densely populated retail business district, and it requires a parking landscape that will enable it to thrive.
"We have a changing economic picture in the Canal District, and we need the parking regulations to be changed to meet the needs of the businesses and our customers."
Joe Borbone, director of Engineering in Worcester's Department of Public Works and Parks, said the parking rules are intended to help businesses in the district.
"The city doesn't put in parking meters wherever they want," he said.
"At some point, these commercial districts have asked for meters to provide a turnover of customers."
Employees from area businesses that park at meters all day throw off the typical rate of turnover the two-hour time limit is meant to encourage.
Parking near or in front of driveway openings is not permitted anywhere in the city, even if its the vehicle owners own driveway, because police or parking enforcement officials have no way of knowing who the car belongs to if it is blocking access to properties.
An Evolving District
Borbone also noted the evolving character of the area and that it may necessitate changes to some parking ordinances down the road.
"In the Canal District there are more and more ares where the buildings are being turning into mixed use properties," he said.
"You have retail on the first floor, and you may have residential on the second or third floor."
Metered parking is not intended for use by residents, and residential permit parking is rarely imposed in areas with a high proportion of businesses.
Pulse Magazine publisher Paul Giorgio said he was less concerned about the parking meters than the municipal parking lots in the district.
"People are being ticketed and towed out of municipal lots because they're smart enough to leave their cars there when they've had too much to drink," he said.
The municipal lots currently close at 2:00a.m. and do not allow overnight parking. When faced with a choice between a $75 ticket and taking their chances on the road, Giorgio worries that patrons of the area's bars and clubs may opt for the latter to avoid the former.
"I think that's a problem that needs to be addressed from a public safety point of view," he said.
A Balancing Act
Borbone said the city does not allow overnight parking in its municipal lots because it needs time to clean and plow the lots during off hours. The lots previously closed at 12:00a.m., but the city moved the time back to 2:00a.m. several years ago in order to accomodate the district's late-night patrons.
"Traffic and parking are always balancing acts," he said.
"You have to try and serve everybody as well as you can without hurting anybody, and sometimes that's difficult."
Borbone said DPWP Commissioner Robert Moylan will be contacting Giangregorio and other business owners in the district to work with them and address their parking concerns.
"We want to talk to the businessmen in the neighborhood," he said. "We're really trying to help them out."
Giangregorio said his organization, which has requested a meeting with the city, is seeking a more sensible and moderate enforcement of of the Canal District's parking regulations.
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