The Traffic Commission discusses the possibility of side parking during snowstorms.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Traffic Commission has referred the idea of alternate side parking to the public services commissioner for further review.
Commissioner Ricardo Morales was asked Thursday to research into the petition proposal volleyed to the Traffic Commission from the City Council.
"We put this together because right now the ban creates an atmosphere of inequity," City Councilor at Large Peter White said. "There are a lot of neighborhoods that do not have alternatives to parking on street."
The petition was brought to full council in mid-February by White, Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon, and Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo as a way to improve winter cleanup.
Alternate side parking is a traffic law that dictates which side of a street cars can be parked on a given day. Its proponents say it allows for more efficient seasonal cleanup and can improve better traffic flow.
White proposed that during the overnight off-street parking ban, on odd days of the week people would park on the odd side of the street and vice versa on the even days of the week.
"Plows that have to go through they can plow one side of the street one night and the other side of the street the other night," White said.
He said it is a residential concern and may not be something that would work throughout the city. He added that during a snow emergency, the roads would have to be cleared.
Morales said he liked the idea and agreed it would create more equity in neighborhoods. Also he thought it would allow the police to better enforce the parking ban.
He said typically the ban is not enforced unless there is a snow emergency because residents do not have an alternative place to park.
"We should be enforcing only to the level we can provide an alternative," he said.
Police Sgt. Marc Maddalena, a member of the commission, felt the police still would not enforce the ban and advocated for removing it all together if they wanted to make a change.
"From an enforcement point of view maybe eliminate the ban altogether ... people ignore it and when a snow emergency comes into effect, people do a decent job getting off the street," he said. "I don't ask my officers to go out and ticket on nights like tonight when it is no different than April 1 ... when the roads are free and clear."
White agreed there was a problem with enforcement and that this parking scenario would be enforceable and he would like to see it enforced — albeit only when the police are fully staffed
Morales said removing the ban is an option but communication across the city would have to be on point during snow emergencies. With side parking option, he would remove the ban only in more dense parts of the city and slowly build out from there.
He said another level would be to only apply the alternate side parking to certain parts of the city.
Commission member Michael Merriam did not want to change something that was not going to be enforced. Also he thought this would only make snow removal more expensive.
Morales said he thought alternate side parking would allow for quicker clean up that would not eat up as much overtime.
"There is a high cost when we are fighting snow overnight regardless of the size when it is overnight it costs more through overtime," he said. "I would like to see snow removal get done at night if it has to be done that night and continue the next day."
He said this would not add more cars to the streets but organize what is already out there for more efficient plowing.
The commission got into more complicated scenarios, like only declaring alternate side parking in certain situations, but Moon said the petitioners are not looking to implement this immediately but just wanted to start the discussion.
"We wanted to talk about how this would be possible and then take time to roll it out so people can learn about it we are not looking at it this winter," she said.
The commission also relayed a proposal from member Nicholas Russo to create a "No Parking Zone" on the east side of McKay Street.
"I think this is a low-hanging fruit situation that could make downtown a little more walkable and a little more pleasant," Russo said. "Cars park right up to the crosswalk there so if anyone is trying to cross you can't see until they start crossing."
Morales agreed this would be a good idea to make the area safer even though the city would lose a few parking spots.
He did ask that the commission also add a curb extension or a bump out to the motion but noted this likely would need further funding and would not happen immediately.
"I am not ready to say this can happen this year with our budget," he said. "But I do support it."
The commission also reorganized and Mark Brennan will remain chairman and Merriam will be vice chairman.