City considering new year-round plan to replace odd-even parking regulations

June 23, 2014

Mayor Svante Myrick, who rarely drives and doesn't own a car, has said he would just as soon do away with odd-even parking regulations in the City of Ithaca. The Board of Public Works is holding a public feedback session on Monday afternoon to get comments from the community on a new plan that would replace the widely derided policy with year-round rotating parking restrictions, in a fifth of the City on one day each week.

A new plan for the City of Ithaca would replace seasonal odd/even parking with rotating restrictions one day a week, all year.A new plan for the City of Ithaca would replace seasonal odd/even parking with rotating restrictions one day a week, all year.The BPW has had a subcommittee working on the issue. Under the current policy, from November 1st through April 1st, parking has been prohibited on City streets from 2am-6am on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd-numbered days, and the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered days. Board member Mark Darling says it's "a program that generates a lot of strong emotions from City residents."

The proposed plan, which will be discussed at a board meeting at 4:45pm on Monday, June 23rd in Common Council chambers in City Hall at 108 East Green Street, would divide up the City so each block would have no parking allowed from 4am to 4pm on one day each week, all year. Darling says that would meet the DPW's need to do street cleaning and maintenance to curbs, gutters, and drainage infrastructure, as well as snow removal, which had been a big factor in the seasonal restriction. During the winter, no parking on both sides of a given street means "there would be more leeway for plows to get through narrow streets, lowering the risk of property damage," say planners. That also means only one fifth of the City would need to be monitored for enforcement purposes on a given day.

"It's really more like an 18-hour restriction than a 12-hour restriction, since no one is going to wake up at 4am to move their car," says west-end homeowner David Kornreich, a faculty member at Ithaca College who has attended BPW meetings on the subject. "My initial thoughts are that this is still more street cleaning time than residential streets in Manhattan get, which is usually two hours twice a week for a total of four hours a week, but, overall, understanding we probably don't have the huge fleet of equipment NYC does, and trusting that it's a well thought out plan that includes street work actually being done at those times, I would support it."

Color-coding shows the proposed division of parking restrictions. Map provided by the City of Ithaca. Click to enlarge.Color-coding shows the proposed division of parking restrictions. Map provided by the City of Ithaca. Click to enlarge.The proposed parking restrictions would be on east-west streets one day and north-sound streets another day, so residents could move their cars to nearby cross streets, rather than having to move them entirely out of the neighborhood. 

One factor the Board of Public Works has considered is that as DPW staff members have gotten older, more of them live outside the City and fewer of them are interested in the overtime shifts needed for overnight plowing and street cleaning that took advantage of the 2am-6am window. "The reductions in work force to meet the budget, and keep taxes low, means fewer crews are scrambling to keep up with what is broken, to say nothing of preventive maintenance," Darling adds.

The plan would also eliminate the City's current 24-hour parking limit, except in a few locations. Residents would have to move their cars just once per week, to accommodate the weekly no-parking rotation, which would be friendlier to those who walk or use public transit for most of their commuting and errands.

Red lines show proposed additions to the snow emergency routes that were already in place. Click to enlarge.Red lines show proposed additions to the snow emergency routes that were already in place. Click to enlarge.To handle snow removal, the BPW's plan calls for "Snow Event" parking restrictions, which would mean no parking on specific "arterial routes" and on the City's steepest streets. The Mayor's office or the Superintendent of Public Works would be able to issue a parking ban for those specific streets, "typically when accumulation is expected to be three inches or more," according to the plan. In such situations, the City would offer a discount for residents who wanted to park in one of the City-owned parking garages. The BPW subcommittee has proposed a $2 rate for 12-hour parking during a snow event.

Darling says modern communication options that didn't exist the last time the City overhauled its parking regulations and snow emergency parking rules, in 1994, mean they can now offer a notification system to which residents could subscribe "that will notify them of street closings, snow plowing, and other emergencies via text and e-mail." Registration for such a system could also let residents opt to provide their license plate numbers, which the City could use, in conjunction with license plate readers, to inform vehicle owners that their car is parked in a no-parking zone or a snow-emergency restricted spot before it's ticketed or towed.

"It certainly seems a lot of good thought has gone into the proposal," says Kornreich, who sent a letter of support to Mayor Myrick on the subject.

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