New Haven looks to improve street parking

Even though New Haven officials are already considering changes to citywide on-street parking, three aldermen have proposed a working group to speed things up.

To find ways to improve the city’s on-street parking, the aldermen — Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 of Ward 10, Roland Lemar of Ward 9 and Mike Jones ’11 of Ward 1 — have proposed creating a working group of city officials, local business and community members. The proposal comes as New Haven looks at citywide strategies, including an initiative to vary the price of street parking based on the demand for spots, city parking director Michael Piscitelli said Thursday.

Elicker said the three aldermen wanted to move forward with the proposal to create the new working group in part because of the city’s decision to monetize it’s parking meters. The city is proposing to switch the meters to pay stations and, in the process, has secured $50 million from the Mayfield Heights, Ohio–based transportation investment firm Gates Group Capital Partners. Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s proposal the 2010-’11 fiscal year budget includes $10 million from the deal. The city already has plans to install pay stations on Prospect Street once the road is repaved and ready for parking as part of a larger agreement between city and Yale officials for improvements to support the two new residential colleges, Piscitelli said.

Piscitelli said installing pay stations, which would be needed to adjust prices, would cost six figures. The city is also considering varying how long a car is allowed to park in a spot, Piscitelli said.

Now, if aldermen approve the creation of the group, of which the three aldermen propose that Piscitelli become a member, the discussion about parking will move along at a faster pace, because it would involve more players, Elicker said. Jones said that although he personally would like to see varying prices, the group will also consider other ideas when recommending parking proposals.

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city supports discussion about parking proposals. Piscitelli said the city started to consider citywide parking strategies after he attended a January lecture held at Yale featuring Donald Shoup ’62 GRD ’68, an urban planning professor at University of California, Los Angeles, who writes about and studies parking.

The problem with parking, Shoup said Thursday, is that because prices for spots are so low, they are filled all the time, forcing drivers to cruise around for spots and creating traffic congestion as well as air pollution. With a flat rate of $1.25 per hour, the price of New Haven’s on-street parking is too high at certain hours of the day, such as the early morning, he said, adding that cities in California, including San Francisco, and London have implemented a demand-based parking pricing program.

University Director of Sustainable Transportation Systems Holly Parker said Yale will benefit from dynamic parking because it will make parking spots more available downtown. In January, Parker, who helped organize the Shoup lecture, said a parking shortage has grown around campus because Yale constructs new buildings where there used to be surface parking lots.

Currently, the city sells 12-hour parking vouchers for $8. Police enforce meter payments from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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