Mixed message for Ithaca residents on parking: odd-even oddity, free downtown parking, and The Boot

October 31, 2014 by Rachel Cera

It's the end of October, so even though the City of Ithaca has been talking about putting an end to it, odd-even parking regulations return tomorrow. It's one of the oddities in a city that's called unfriendly to people who want to park downtown to shop or eat, along with a new "boot" program to deal with repeat parking offenders.

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 has been working 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 isn't ready, though.

From November 1st through April 1st, under the current policy, parking is 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 of Public Works member Mark Darling told us last fall that the board "is considering changes" to "a program that generates a lot of strong emotions from City residents." One factor the subcommittee is looking at is the DPW's need to do street cleaning and maintenance to curbs, gutters, and drainage infrastructure, not just snow removal. "Odd-Even would make it possible to clean to the curb without the labor-intensive posting of temporary no-parking-zone signs," he says.

Even area residents and visitors who know of the current rule are often bitten by its confusing wording. If you're parking at 9pm on November 1st, park on the side of the street with odd house numbers, as in the wee hours of November 2nd, an even-numbered day, parking on the even side of the street is prohibited.

Because November 1st is an odd-numbered day, parking will be prohibited on the odd side of the street from 2-6am overnight tonight, or early Saturday morning. Drivers parking overnight after their Halloween festivities should park on the even side of the street.

The rule applies even on streets with parking on only one side. Drivers must find another street on which to park overnight. Vehicles parked on the wrong side of the street between 2-6am will be ticketed, and vehicles that have not been moved in 72 hours could be considered abandoned and towed at the owner's expense.

Ithaca resident Cameron Finucane took it upon himself to produce a web site that makes the decision clear. Visit whichsidetopark.info at any time for advice on where to park. Whether it's before or after midnight, the site will correctly tell you which side of the street you can park on for that night.

Odd-even parking ensures the City can effectively remove snow during the winter, by making sure each side of the street is free of parked cars at least every couple of days. Darling says infrastructure maintenance is also vital. "Public works infrastructure is invisible. Usually we only notice it when servicing and repairing it causes us individual inconvenience, or it fails," he says. "Moving cars from one side of the street to the other makes it possible for this work to be done in less time and with less cost to the City," Darling adds, "money coming from taxpayers, mostly. 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."

Not paying your parking tickets? You might come back to your car to find this. 14850 Photo.Not paying your parking tickets? You might come back to your car to find this. 14850 Photo.In the meantime, the City has rolled out a new "boot" program to deal with people who park illegally multiple times who don't pay their tickets. Vehicle booting, in which a car can be immobilized until the offender pays outstanding fines and a boot removal fee, began this Monday, October 27th.

Earlier this month, the City sent letters to about 750 people who had five or more unpaid parking tickets dating as far back as the year 2000. City parking director Frank Nagy says they hope to collect much of the approximately 1.5 million dollars in unpaid parking tickets. The letter warns recipients that their vehicles are subject to being immobilized by a parking boot until all tickets are reconciled.

"The majority of the cost of maintaining and enforcing our parking systems and facilities is being borne by City of Ithaca taxpayers, whether they park at the meters or in the garages or not," Nagy says. "Having a system in place that allows the City to collect parking fines from people who have received multiple tickets in a timely manner helps to shift some of that burden to the users of those parking systems."

Drivers whose vehicles are booted must pay all outstanding tickets before the vehicle will be released, along with a $50 fee to have the boot removed. A booted vehicle that remains on the street for 72 hours is subject to towing at the owner's expense, and vehicles not picked up from towing companies within 24 hours are subject to daily storage fees.

"We’re spreading the word as widely as possible to let people know that it is more cost effective to address any outstanding parking tickets now rather than risk being booted and having those fees compounded," said Nagy. He suggests people who know they have outstanding parking tickets pay them immediately at the City Chamberlain's Office at City Hall, 108 East Green Street, Monday through Friday from 8:30am-4:30pm. Cash, checks, and money orders are accepted in general, but the Chamberlain's Office will only accept cash if a vehicle has been booted. Outstanding tickets can also be paid online.

In the meantime, Mayor Myrick says, the City of Ithaca, which has been criticized for disruptions to Downtown Ithaca businesses and eateries through an extended period of construction on the Commons and road work on surrounding blocks, is working with the Downtown Ithaca Alliance to sponsor two hours of free parking. "Shoppers who present validated receipts from Commons businesses" may park for free in the Seneca Street and Green Street parking garages, both operated by the City of Ithaca.

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