New Year to bring changes to commuter parking regulations
DARIEN — Commuters will soon see a series of changes to parking regulations at Darien and Noroton Heights train stations.
Four of five selectmen voted in favor — Selectman Kip Koons recused himself — of regulations which, beginning in the New Year, would increase the daily parking rate from $3 to $4 and the cost of annual permits from $345 to $400.
The changes will also offer a monthly fee option for non-permit lots for $65 and daily parking available in permitted spots beginning after 9:30 p.m., the last of which was the source of some concern at the Monday Public Hearing at which the selectmen approved the changes.
“I think it places an undue burden on certain groups,” Darien commuter Richard Williamson said. According to Williamson, commuters who have paid for permits and expect a space, and that don’t work a regular 9 to 5 job, such as the elderly, students and self-employed residents could suffer if commuters paying a day rate took up spots.
However, Chairman of the Parking Advisory Task Force and Representative Town Meeting member Jim Cameron, who was present at the hearing, followed Williamson by voicing his strong support for the changes.
“I don’t think we’re in the situation where we can reserve spaces for people that choose to commute outside of commuting hours. We don’t have reserved spaces, these permits are a license to hunt, they’re not a guarantee of a space any more than the beach permit that I get guarantees me six square feet of beach. It’s first come, first serve,” Cameron Said.
Cameron also added that by increasing the daily fee, which more than half the commuters between Noroton Heights and Darien train station are paying, to a rate more comparable with surrounding towns, the number of cars could decrease.
“I think that we’re not in an arms race with the neighboring towns to try and match their rates, but by being the cheapest we actually have more people coming and using our lots. If we want to get non-residents to not use our lots, we should make them be priced less attractively than they are now,” Cameron explained.
Selectman Kip Koons, too, pointed out that, with the optional monthly rate of $65, commuters would only be paying $3.10 per day, only a 10 cents increase on the former price per day.
Ultimately, the regulations are an attempt to mitigate demand in the absence of increasing supply. First Selectman Jayme Stevenson mentioned that the prospect of a parking structure on the south side of Noroton Heights station that would allow for more parking is being discussed, but that existing traffic conditions near the entrance to the parking lot and the off and on ramp to I-95 could prove a hindrance.
“We’ll be doing some traffic analyses, but we have to be mindful of not overburdening our local roadways,” Stevenson said.