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Mindboggling Parking Policies Hurting Hartford

For as long as I can remember, people have complained about parking in Downtown Hartford.   Defenders of the current parking situation will argue there is plenty of parking and it is cheaper than many cities.   That may be, but the fact is,  downtown parking is difficult, confusing, frustrating, and is hurting downtown business.

The above picture was taken Sunday morning around 8:45AM on Church Street, across from the Hartford Stage.   Kara and I were there along with dozens of people rehearsing at the Stage for the Joy for the Kids concert.    

We assumed, wrongly, that we could easily park at one of the meters for free since the meters don’t charge on Sundays, and very few people come downtown on Sundays because very few businesses open on Sundays.   Even Starbucks is closed.

We encountered the above scene and then noticed meters throughout downtown were bagged with tow zone and no parking signs.    We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but didn’t want the car towed, so we actually paid to park in a garage!      I’m not against paying for parking, but on a cold Sunday morning in a desolate downtown, no visitor should pay a dime for parking when there are dozens of empty meter spots on the streets.   Denise and others came to downtown with the same expectation for parking and also ended up in a garage.  

I contacted HPD this week to find out why these meters were bagged.  Old friend Nancy Mulroy, whom I have known for years, gave me the official answer as to why street parking is banned:  “to prevent gridlock during the UConn game.”   The game was at 1pm, the meters were bagged when I saw them at 8:45AM, perhaps even earlier. 

I tell you, Hartford has a litany of problems, and gridlock is not one of them.  In fact, the city could use some good old fashioned gridlock, the kind that encourages people to stay in the city a little longer, perhaps grab something to eat and spend some money.  

I spoke to a local merchant about this, and she told me the bagged meters without a posted explanation have long been a point of contention downtown.   “People want to be able to park at a meter, not necessarily a garage, ”  she told me.  Some people actually believe the city is in collusion with the garage and parking lot owners to bag the meters and force visitors into the lots and garages.

Other merchants have complained about this, and believe it it is the city’s goal through its parking management and traffic patterns, to get people out of downtown as quickly as possible rather than have them stay!      Many meters ban parking from 3:30PM to 6:30PM, so the streets can hold more traffic and empty the city quickly.     That policy discourages people from coming downtown during these hours. 

If the city doesn’t think this parking meter and traffic policy isn’t hurting Hartford, I suggest looking at the growing number of empty storefronts and the decrease in foot traffic.    

There must be a better way.

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8 replies »

  1. I agree, there is a better way. Unfortunately, the city seems to think the better way is to privatize parking, which I think is also a mistake. We can’t make rash decisions to sell off the assets of the city at rock bottom prices and then regret the hasty decision later. We have highly paid officials who are responsible for overseeing parking, why aren’t they being held accountable? Why isn’t someone analyzing how much money the meters should be generating and then looking at the variances? I saw a financial report from the DPW recently and the gross negligence in the way funds are collected was appalling.

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  2. These meters were bagged on Friday afternoon FYI. I tried to park at the same spot on Friday at 2:00. This is wrong! People expect a certain amount of gridlock after the end of a game. Creates the illusion of lots of people downtown –
    maybe it would make them stay for dinner or drinks rather than sit in traffic?

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  3. Ditto what Marri wrote above, it appears to be city policy to bag the meters along parade and egress routes on the Friday before a big game, parade, etc. They don’t want to pay city workers OT for bagging them on Sat or Sun of the event. Mark your calendar for the Fri before the Veterans Parade or the St. Patrick’s Parade and check out how many meters are bagged by noon that day. The city may say they are not in collusion with the garages, but perception is reality.

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  4. “Downtown parking is difficult, confusing, frustrating, and is hurting downtown business.”
    I couldn’t agree more. I went out on Allyn St. Saturday night to watch the Uconn football game. Instead of paying the set fee of an arm and a leg to park for under 2 hours in the lots on Church St/Allyn St/High St, I opted for on street parking a little further away. When I returned to where I had parked, I was in shock to see my car was no longer there. The same cars I had parked around were still there so I assumed mine was stolen. After speaking with police, I was informed it was towed. Over $100 dollars later, I retrieved my car, complete with a $45 parking ticket on the windshield. My violation? “No parking tow zone.” I found this odd because I had not seen any parking signs other than the 8am-6pm 2 hour parking sign on the street. I returned to the spot this afternoon to investigate. There is no sign indicating the spot where I had parked was a no parking tow zone. There are only brackets on the light pole where it appears a sign should be. Going by the signs that are posted, my car was parked in the 2hr parking sign vicinity.
    In short, not only is on street metered parking an issue as you mentioned, but the city can’t even properly inform drivers where they can legally park on the street. I’m sure it costs more money for the police to go around covering the parking meters than to replace a missing sign! From now on, I’ll be entertaining myself outside of the city at businesses where I can truly park for free without being unfairly towed and fined.

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  5. It seems one solution which was the idea of moving parking meter bagging from the police dept and DPW over to the Parking Authority to reduce time out of service has yet to had a positive impact. The idea being that since the Parking authority gets the revenues, they would have a vested interest in keeping the durations short. But this being Hartford, I for one can’t even be sure that the ordinance changes actually have taken place,

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