New Committee Tackles Village Parking

The Parking Committee will recommend that lines delineating the 53 parking spots on the south side of Main Street be erased for a 90-day trial period. 

Will recommend Main Street experiment

By Michael Turton

Elliott Hammond has seen the parking situation in Cold Spring change dramatically over the course of his lifetime, and not for the better. A lifelong resident, Hammond has served on the Village Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the now defunct Parks Commission.

“Parking has changed a lot. It used to be one car in the garage,” he told The Paper. “In fact there were families … who didn’t have a car at all. Now it’s two or even three cars per family … and this town isn’t big enough for that.” Add to that the change in tourist traffic. “There never used to be any visitors … now you can’t even move on the weekends.”

And to that add the increase in the number of residents who live locally but commute to work via Metro-North. Most park their car at the train station for a fee or on village streets in violation of the four- or five-hour time limit. The result? An almost guaranteed monthly discussion of “the parking problem” at Village Board meetings.

‘Committed to getting something done’

An extensive study of Cold Spring’s parking resources and challenges was done in 2008 however its findings were never acted upon. That may be changing. A recently formed parking committee has begun reexamining village parking and is poised to take action on a number of fronts. Trustee Cathryn Fadde chairs the group, which includes Hammond, former mayor Anthony Phillips, Donna Steltz, Frank Haggerty, Gretchen Dykstra and Christopher Daly. Whether by good design or mere coincidence, the committee is an equal mix of long-time residents and relative newcomers.

Fadde is impressed with the group. “It’s a great committee,” she said. “They’re focused and they’re engaged … and committed to getting something done.” Fadde said the 2008 study is being taken into account but only in addressing priority items. “We’re trying to work on issues strategically. We’re focusing on Main Street and the waterfront first.”

A Main Street trial

The lines that mark parking spaces on Main Street are about to disappear — in part at least. Fadde said that there are 99 parking spaces on Main Street — 53 on the south side and 46 on the north side. The committee is about to recommend to the Village Board that the lines on the south side be removed as part of a 90-day trial, a step recommended in the 2008 study.

The Parking Committee will recommend that lines delineating the 53 parking spots on the south side of Main Street be erased for a 90-day trial period. 

The Parking Committee will recommend that lines delineating the 53 parking spots on the south side of Main Street be erased for a 90-day trial period.

According to Mike Armstrong, chair of that study group, the number of cars that can park on a street can increase by 15 percent simply by not marking individual parking spaces. That is likely true on Main Street where spaces vary greatly in size. On the block just west of Morris Avenue / Chestnut Street some appear large enough to accommodate two cars. During the trial period, cars parked in the test area will be counted three times a day to assess the effectiveness of removing the lines.

Residents, motorcycles and signs

Recently there has been a call for residential parking permits to ease the difficulties that villagers on side streets face in competing for parking spots with commuters, visitors and employees who work on Main Street. New York state regulates such permits. “The State Legislature is not in session now but we’ve reached out to Senator Terry Gipson and State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef,” Fadde said. “We have to be sure that residents don’t feel they’re being left out,” a sentiment that was echoed by other committee members who spoke with The Paper.

Fadde said that motorcycle parking is also being looked at. While some communities designate specific areas for motorcycle parking, Cold Spring does not. As a result, one motorcycle sometimes occupies an entire parking space, even though it has the capacity to handle more. Bikes can also sometimes be seen squeezed between two cars parked in marked spaces. “We’d like to figure out a way to accommodate motorcycles more effectively. If there’s a way to do that — we should,” Fadde said.

On the riverfront, the parking committee has been instrumental in making West Street one way from North Street to Main Street — a move that will reduce traffic congestion while making parking easier. “When Dockside Restaurant was active, people could drive in there and turn around,” Fadde said. But with Dockside Park now closed to traffic and Moo Moo’s Creamery attracting a large number of customers, action had to be taken to improve safety and traffic flow, Fadde said.

A recent inventory of village street signs found many inconsistencies. 

A recent inventory of village street signs found many inconsistencies.

The new committee has also reviewed all parking and other street signage. Phillips, assisted by resident Bob Ferris, recently conducted a complete inventory and assessment throughout the village. “I was surprised how many signs there are that over the years have become redundant,” Phillips said. Fadde said that the committee will present a list of suggested signage changes to the Village Board.

The 800-pound gorilla

The committee has not yet tackled the 800-pound gorilla in the room — whether or not to install parking meters. The argument for meters is mainly about the revenue that the cash-strapped village could raise. The 2008 study put revenues at $180,000 annually based on rates of 50 cents an hour during the week and $1 an hour on weekends. Part of the downside is the cost of purchase and installation of the meters, estimated six years ago at up to $120,000. How the meters might affect residents has also been questioned.

The committee itself may reflect the debate that the parking meter issue sets off. Phillips clearly favors the move to meters on Main Street and in the municipal parking lot on Fair Street. “It’s a revenue source,” he said. “Go to any tourist town (such as) Nyack. You’re not going to find a free parking spot. Meters wouldn’t drive anyone to poverty.”

Hammond is not as sure. “I’m not in favor of meters — unless residents can be protected such as by a parking sticker program,” he said. “Residents have to be the priority. They’re the ones who pay the taxes.” He does clearly favor more effective enforcement of parking regulations.

Fadde thinks more information is needed. “I’d like to recommend meters — but not without data,” she said. Some of that data could come from erasing the parking space lines. Fadde said that experiment could show the potential for generating more revenue from Main Street parking meters if the removal of the lines confirms that the street can accommodate additional vehicles.

The overall good

The parking committee chair repeated a recent plea for understanding. “We hope people can be patient,” Fadde said. “We don’t want to make statements about any changes without some certainty. We don’t want people thinking they aren’t going to have a place to park their car.” She said that when the committee does recommend change, “We want to be sure it is for the overall good of the community … we want it to work.”

The 2008 Parking Study is available on the village website at coldspringny.gov.

Photos by M. Turton


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4 thoughts on “New Committee Tackles Village Parking

  1. Parking meters, contrary to popular opinion, are not primarily about raising money. They were invented, in the mid-1930s, to create access to parking, not raise revenue. They were wildly successful. Because they were mechanical devices, limited to coins, they tended, over time, to underprice parking. (This made them less effective in creating access, and made people forget that this is their real purpose.)

    The new muni-meters solve this problem by accepting larger sums, accepting credit cards. Muni-meters do away with costly to maintain coin collection systems, and, since they are solar powered, do not need expensive wiring. Rates can be easily adjusted to target a desired vacancy rate of 15 percent — what traffic engineers define as the threshold that gives drivers a feeling that they can find a space.

    The $180,000 figure you cite is based on my 2008 analysis, and is a net annual figure (not gross) that accounts for the cost of the system, which would be amortized over 10 years, or leased over 10 years. It is based on metering 173 spaces, including the 99 Main Street spaces, the Depot Square spaces and the municipal lot spaces.

    I challenge those who oppose parking meters to identify a better way to raise the funds for a new firehouse, to build a decent senior center, to improve Main Street lighting — or any of the many things that would make this Village a safer, nicer place to live but that we say we can’t afford.

    Parking meters are the key to good enforcement. Think carefully about why people object to being ticketed when the infraction is caught by marking chalk on tires, versus having a muni-meter receipt that is time stamped. It turns out that what we think of as Cold Spring’s uniquely poor enforcement actually shows up wherever communities try to enforce parking time limits without meters.

    The best source of ideas and statistics on parking is Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking. I recommend that every one on the parking committee get a copy and read it. It is a truly fascinating read.

    • In my comment, I misstated the number of spaces that would be metered: it was 167, not 173. The actual estimated figure for net revenues is $178,481. I avoided using that fancy number because it could give a false sense of precision, when it is only an estimate.

      The projected revenue was based on seasonal variations in occupancy, and variations of low, medium and high use during weekend or weekdays. Those variations were, in turn, mostly rooted in direct observation of street by street parking occupancy at various times of day, for weekends and weekdays. Because we did not have winter statistics, I set occupancy at much, much lower levels for that season — but this was a reasonable guess, based on my general impression of such use at that period.

      I provided my entire analysis to the Village in 2008. No one has ever presented a cogent, informed rebuttal. The industry rule of thumb for annual per space revenue is $1,500, which would result in annual gross revenue of $250,000. For perspective, payback is about 6 to 9 months — in business, this would be called a no-brainer, one where spending a lot of time on fine tuning the numbers would serve only to delay the benefits.

      I oppose exempting residents from paying for metered spaces on Main Street, Depot Square and the Village Municipal lot, but would support such an exemption for the side streets (High, Church, Garden, etc), if they were ever metered. A key problem with parking on Main Street is business owners taking spaces that could be used for customers. One estimate is that up to half the spaces on Main Street are occupied by business owners. Exhortations to owners and their employees to park off Main Street, citing self interest, have failed. Metering would be highly effective.

      Before the Village goes much further in extending the Resident Parking Permit system beyond the area west of the tracks, it might want to consider how well the RPP we have is actually working. How many permits are actually outstanding? How does that relate to the maximum number of permits that can be issued, according to the ordinance?

      Finally, a residential exemption from paying for parking meters is very different from the existing exemption to the four-hour parking restriction west of the tracks. I have never been shown any case in New York State of a community having its residents exempt from paying meters, while about 20 communities (including Cold Spring) have in place a resident exemption to time limits (designed in most cases to cope with commuter lot overflows).

  2. Thank you, Mike, for your thoughts on parking meters. I concur 100 percent with meters.

  3. Reporter’s Note: Apologies to Bob Ferris who is actually a member of the Parking Committee. The above article identified him only as a village resident.