Valet service pulls into station

Union Station is Connecticut's first train terminal to offer valet parking
Union Station is Connecticut's first train terminal to offer valet parking Photo by Vivienne Jiao Zhang.

As of Oct. 2, Metro-North and Amtrak passengers can avoid the hassles of crowded garages with a new valet parking service.

Union Station is the state’s first train terminal to offer valet parking — one solution to the city’s ongoing shortage of parking availability. A collaboration between the Department of Transportation and Park New Haven, an operator of six parking garages in the city, the service is available to New Haven residents for $20 a day. After commuters leave their vehicles in front of Union Station, valets will move the cars to a lot west of the station or to a lot at the former Coliseum three blocks away. Returning commuters can use a “Rapid Return” program, through which they can text or call the valet service 20 to 30 minutes before arrival for their car to be moved to the entrance of Union Station.

“[The valet parking service] fits well with what we’re trying to promote in a transportation center — the most user-friendly travel possible,” said William Kilpatrick, executive director of Park New Haven.

Seventy-five to 100 New Haven residents have used the valet parking system, though numbers are expected to rise as awareness of the service spreads, said Kilpatrick. The day after the program’s launch, over 20 cars had already been valet-parked. Kilpatrick said although the service has not had any direct advertisement, information about the program has been posted on the Park New Haven website and continues to draw media coverage.

Thus far the service has been running smoothly, with only one delay caused by a passenger who failed to text in advance, Kilpatrick said. He added that the area in which cars are entrusted to valets is “a limited amount of space with a lot of activity” and an increased number of valets have thus been staffed outside Union Station.

“We are trying to put customer convenience and service first, and this is the kind of innovation that our customers are increasingly looking to us for,” said Department of Transportation commissioner James Redeker. “Our goal is satisfied customers, and the availability of a valet parking service, especially during a harsh New England winter, is something that many will welcome.”

In addition to the valet parking service, Park New Haven is considering further developments to improve the efficiency of New Haven parking lots. Kilpatrick cited added pay stations where residents can pay for parking and way-finding technology to direct drivers to available parking spaces as new innovations that will alleviate vehicular congestion in downtown garages. Park New Haven officials are also discussing the construction of another garage on the west or east side of the Union Station Parking Garage.

“The best option has not yet been determined,” Kilpatrick said.

The valet parking service will be available Monday through Friday from 6:00 am to 2:00 am. After 180 days of operation, Park New Haven will evaluate the effectiveness of the program and consider potential adjustments.

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