Selectmen approve new parking regulations to tackle problems at Darien's train stations

Darien’s Board of Selectmen has approved two new regulations giving the town new tools to enforce parking rules at the Darien and Noroton Heights Metro North train stations.

The new regulations will allow the town to tow vehicles that are non-operable from the train station parking lot, and prevent people with delinquent parking tickets or other fees from renewing their parking permit.

One of the regulations requires vehicles in town lots to comply with the laws of the state they are registered in, or risk being towed. Town Administrator Kate Buch brought the issue to the Board of Selectmen’s attention after several disagreements with commuters. Some cars with improper license plates and others that were completely disabled were left in the train station lots for extended periods of time, and without a formal regulation the town could not have them removed.

While inspection and license plate rules may vary from state to state, the new regulation would help hold all car owner’s accountable for making sure their documentation is up to date and moving their car off of town property in a timely fashion.

The second regulation change would help the town recover delinquent parking fees by withholding permits from violators. Commuter parking permits are in high demand with a waitlist of nearly 10 years, so the regulation will be a major motivator for commuters to stay current with their fees to the town. Those found to have outstanding parking fees would be required to show proof of payment within five days of their permit renewal notice.

The board had also put out a call for feedback on whether the Darien train station needs a designated queuing area for taxis and commuter pickups on the New Haven-bound side of the station. While the area in question is technically a town road, the town has struggled to impose a significant consequence for taxis waiting in the area.

At one point the town attempted to direct taxi traffic to the area of Squab Lane, but the decision found pushback from commuters and was eventually ignored by drivers. The taxis are licensed by the state so there is no risk of them losing their ability to pick up passengers from the station. Darien police are occasionally called in to help facilitate traffic, but do not have a long term solution.

With the rise of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft, train station traffic gets more and more dense during peak hours, but the Board of Selectmen doesn’t want to make strict policy change that could be detrimental to commuters.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has also identified Darien train station for its platform replacement program, and expects to deliver plans for the project in 2020. Significant impacts on traffic and parking in the area can be expected. The Noroton Heights train station platform is currently nearing the end of a multi-year platform replacement process; that project is scheduled to be completed in November.