SoNo Task Force: Maybe offer free parking

A Norwalk Parking Authority worker patrols SoNo Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. – There needs to be a change in direction for the Norwalk Parking Authority, SoNo Task Force members said Thursday.

Bruce Beinfield, the task force member charged with studying parking issues, said information on the Parking Authority’s website shows that demand for parking in South Norwalk has been steadily decreasing.

“What the Parking Authority has been doing in response to reduced demand is getting their enforcement even more efficient than it had been previously, but that does not build the demand for parking in the area, so what is needed is a change of direction to get more people down here,” Beinfield said. “When you look at possibilities for how to rebuild the demand, first you have to accept the status quo that there are too many people who feel that parking is a hassle in South Norwalk now, and you have to change that perception. The way to do that is to make it not a hassle.”

Beinfield suggested perhaps having free parking at night in the Webster lot for a while. In the daytime, it might help to offer half an hour of free parking in the lot at the corner of Washington and North Water Street, he said.

Task Force Chairman Bill Collins reminded everyone that the parking authority is an enterprise fund, not part of the city’s budget. He said he had spoken to Norwalk Finance Director Thomas Hamilton within the last week.

“He said, ‘well, with this particular kind of enterprise fund, if they run a deficit once or twice, it isn’t too bad because the city could in fact have a special appropriation to bail them out, as long as you have put together a plan where they are going to be self-sufficient after that,” Collins said. “So that gives us a little more flexibility than I had realized was there to do some experimental things.”

Having the first half hour free in that lot “might generate more revenue, and you don’t know until you try it,” he said. “… We have opportunities to deal with this, it just takes imagination, which we seem to have a room full of.”

Tom Rich said that when The Pearl is built at 99 Washington St. with 154 parking spots in its garage, it will feature valet service in the evenings Wednesday through Saturday – at a loss, to encourage business.

“There is no way it will be a money maker. It will be a money loser,” he said. “We’re going to keep it at $5, a flat fee.”

He suggested a shuttle back and forth to the Maritime Garage to make it more user friendly, as it is not centrally located now.

It was suggested the Parking Authority pay for the shuttle, as it might increase revenues.

“There’s questions about the alignment of the mission of the Parking Authority with that of the neighborhood,” Beinfield said. “… Actually, the goals of the parking authority and the district are more aligned more than they ever have been, because  unless demand is increased one way or the other, the source of the revenue that the Parking Authority has been depending on will be compromised. So we are at a place now where we should all be able to come together to figure out how to market to people coming down to South Norwalk.”


4 responses to “SoNo Task Force: Maybe offer free parking”

  1. EveT

    Please, no gimmicks. Make parking simple and straightforward.

    The hassle isn’t just the money and the worry about a ticket, it’s also having to decipher the method of payment and read dozens of different signs to see if you are in a 1/2 hr zone or a zone that starts at 6 PM or whatever. Keep it simple.

    Valet parking is a nonstarter as far as I’m concerned. I don’t like strangers driving my car. If I have a choice, I won’t patronize a place that has valet parking, period.

  2. David

    I think we need to answer a fundamental question: What is the point of paid parking? Is it to raise revenue for the city, or to ensure that city streets/lots don’t become private parking garages?
    If it’s the former, then it’s a pretty simple economic question. Can the city afford to lose that revenue? What are the base costs and are local businesses willing to cover some/all of those costs in some manner (ie, a monthly surcharge to the city if they are in a free parking zone)?
    I think we have to stop the latter from happening, but I’m sure there are ways we can do that – allow free parking for two hours and reduce the ticket fines. That makes it costly if you are a long term violator, but not prohibitive if you run over.

  3. Don’t Panic

    I am with Eve. No to valet.

    Parking should be a small component of your plans, not an end unto itself. There are movie theatre’s with free and accessible parking. ..why would you want to pay, keep track of the rules and still walk?

  4. Oldtimer

    As long as there is a TAX (fees & fines) on parking in SONO and free parking in so many other places, most people will not go to SONO with their cars, and businesses in SONO will continue to be at a competitive disadvantage. If the parking lots and garages offered real security, they might be worth paying a reasonable fee, but they don’t, and a lot of people do not feel safe using them.

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