Downtown Parking: Your 2 Cents’ Worth

Change may be coming to downtown parking.

Change, as in “something new.”

And change, as in “nickles, dimes and quarters.”

Westport’s Downtown 2020 Committee is considering recommending paid parking, the Westport News reports. If so, a variety of town officials would then examine the issue.

Main Street — without traffic, or parking meters.

Revenues would help fund “beautification improvements and maintenance of the core downtown areas,” says Steve Desloge, president of the Downtown Merchants Association.

Charging for parking — either with coins or credit card-reading meters — could be the most controversial downtown issue since the Y announced plans to move.

It would alter longstanding habits of shoppers, store owners and employees. It might change the mix of Main Street stores, and affect the type of people who shop — or even move — here.

There are likely to be passionate opponents (“I’ll never shop downtown again!”) — and equally fervent supporters (“It’s the 21st century; get your head out of the sand!”).

Though “06880” readers are a notoriously unscientific sample, let’s start the conversation off here. Click “Comments,” and/or take a poll.

61 responses to “Downtown Parking: Your 2 Cents’ Worth

  1. Another reason to keep shopping in Fairfield. Just makes Westport even more unfriendly and difficult! What is happening to our charming, warm town?
    -Just plain old disappointed

    • Babette d'Yveine

      I think our charming, warm town was lost with the first SIR tear-down.

      • For everyone who whines about good old Westport, the decline started just AFTER they got here. Funny how that works.

        • Sorry Emma, don’t think folks were saying that about Westport in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and who knows about the 80’s? When we lived in Westport in the 60’s and part of 70’s, I never heard, “gee, what’s happened to Westport?” In fact far from it — it was in it’s prime — possibly it will have many primes to come — I hope so but kind of doubt it. In the golden days when we lived there, it was beautiful, warm, charming, awake, quirky, artsy, interesting, vibrant, with wonderful historic homes that didn’t have to be 10K sq. ft. and some humility. We all loved it and didn’t talk about tear downs constantly or Main Street dying. It was happening! The shopping and dining was electric on Main with my art teacher’s store, Mrs. Fox — Selective Eye, West Lake and much more. It was never perfect but there sure weren’t many towns like it. So forgive those of us who want to see it as it was. We all too aware that the old Westport no longer exists — so be kind in your rubbing it in please. We get your point and no need to keep at it. I arrived there as a toddler and had my earliest memories of life in Westport and will forever remember the town’s magic. I had a hard visit back this summer to witness more of the dear old town’s changes. It sure isn’t what it was and some of us are going to continue to say what we feel.

          • Feel free to say whatever you want. I will do the same. I moved here in the late 1970’s and I heard the bleating about the “changes” then. The bleating will be with us always.

            • Obviously the education in Westport isn’t what it used to be either as back in the day — you seem to have quite a limited vocabulary and limited sensibilities as well, Emma. Be aware of how crass that sounds as a woman – no need to use such demeaning and limited language to get your points across — we get it in spades –again it’s quite crude and angry sounding — an old Westport teacher would easily have pointed that out to you. Apparently not now. Anger and crudeness never win the day and maybe some in the great new Westport need to learn some old time lessons.

              • Thanks for sharing. How special. Condescend much? BTW I am not the one who is decrying the changes or making hostile remarks about the new arrivals or their choice of housing. How about you?

                For the record, I did not attend Westport Schools. I did attend schools in which we were taught not to make judgements about people based upon the type of house they lived in or their occupation. We were taught as well to respect the individuals right to make life style choices. So if someone wants to buy an old house and tear it down, as long as they obey the law, that person’s choice should be respected. Again how about you?

      • What’s a “SIR Teardown” ?

        • Babette d'Yveine

          SIR Development is probably the Teardown King of Westport. They have constructed many houses on the sites of older ones that were demolished. Most of their houses look alike; they probably have four designs. They also manage to cram McMansions on tiny sites, maxing out setbacks and FAR (floor area ratio)..

          • I am relatively new to town and live in a new SIR home. The home is located on a beautiful lot with a gorgeous backyard (Babette – you are speaking out on context when referring to “tiny sites, maxing out setbacks….”). SIR is a highly professional company. Attacking them for providing quality, higher-end homes throughout Westport is unjustifiable. I am sorry you are not happy with builders who teardown homes, but am not sure why you feel it is necessary to single out SIR when there are well over 5+ local builders who are known for tearing down homes throughout Westport?

  2. Terrible idea! Who carries change anymore? Seriously, a credit card to pay for a parking Meyer in Westport? Oh brother, i bet there will be an app for that! Might as well just go to a mall! Paying to park to get a Starbucks? To get lunch at aqua? To run into a store to make a return?

    • shoptillyoudrop

      For what it is worth Stamford mall charges for parking but Trumbull does not. That does not influence what mall I go to. How about others?

  3. If thats what it takes...

    When I moved to Westport from NYC in June of 1989 the first Westport News headline I saw was “Town to consider 3 hour parking meters” . I’ve been expecting this for almost 23 years!

  4. If thats what it takes...

    Hello…. there is no reason to need change (as in coins) Just use the Muni Meters (they take debit and credit cards) like everyone else. Hardly the end of the world. We could always fire some policemen and more teachers.

  5. A Westporter

    I would vote anyone out of office– who supported this initiative. It would kill any profit any merchants experienced in the area. For extra 5 minutes– I will just head north on the post road, for more convenience and less hassle.

  6. first create diagonal head in parking. this alone should double the number of cars that can park on main. then muni meters. maybe if we allowed a drive up window for starbucks, and put a toll right in front of it.

  7. Paid parking works in a city environment but will further contribute to the urbanization of downtown. Why shop in Westport when Fairfield has free parking and a ton of far more interesting stores…not everything you find in a Simon Properties Mall. All we have to do is put a roof over Main street and entrances at each end and we have “The Westport Collection”… a commonly found array of stores found in most affluent towns.

  8. I like to go downtown on occasion....and I grew up here too!

    Important question, at least to me…is the revenue from paid parking meters to go to town budgets or is it to go to the Downtown Merchants Association? Important distinction.

  9. Shoptillyoudrop …it seems, by your handle, that you would charter a G5 to see the Spring Paris Fashion Show….so you do not count in this equation…your desire to shop creates a built in bias.

    • Are U kidding? Don’t blame you for not revealing your identity. How embarrassing a comment.

    • I like to go downtown on occasion....and I grew up here too!

      You are kidding me, right? The only folks who count in the equation are ones who never go downtown and buy anything? Hmmmm.

      My question is are the meters being proposed (and funds collected) by the DMA?

  10. To what use would the money be put? If it is the usual collection of crackpot ideas, then we can do without the meters.

  11. A parking TAX? For beautification? Let the DMA collect a fee from each store or landlord. The ugliness of meters or numbered spaces cancels any beautification efforts. How about Westport TAX PAYERS park FREE!
    The DMA is a lobbying group. Look at who are the members. Dan, who are these folks? And who are the supporters on the Downtown committee?
    Put meters at the library and churches and Schools for an even more beautiful town.

  12. How about this: park free for 90 mins. Shop too long and get a ticket. It works for New Canaan. It’s win/win, plus there’s no ugliness of parking meters.

    • I agree, and that’s how we used to it. Doesn’t anyone else remember the blue chalk marks on your tires?

      • You bet I remember. We would roll the car 18 inches to hide the chalk OR you could TRY to wipe it off with a handkerchief if you were blocked. If you had a beach sticker, you sometimes got a “pass.”

  13. A westport parent

    This is the most insane suggestion I have heard in a long time… just take it off the agenda. Put your creative juices to work by bringing in stores that would attract people from other towns–or create more vibrancy down-town. Bringing in the movie theater is a great step in the right direction. The Levitt Funding is also a great accomplishment– pop-up restaurants– terrific. These are the changes that will bring in more revenue. A parking meter will just destroy these objectives.– and have the exact opposite outcome.

  14. Emma, you are clearly a sad a jaded person. I’ve lived in town since my parents moved here in1969..of course with the exception of years in college etc and have chosen to raise my children here. I miss many of the shops we used to have on main street and am saddened by the Mall that has replaced them. I’m not one of those people who saw” the decline after AFTER I got here” I’ve watched it all along and it’s frustrating! I welcome new innovative creative shops to Westport, just not parking meters! I agree with P…just ticket more aggressively.

    • And you are clearly a very confused person. For the record, I did not post that I was in favor of parking meters. But, you claim you were here and THEN the “decline” started. People who lived here before 1969 may have thought that you and your family were agents of decline. I have lived here for 35 years. It is not the same town it was when I moved here, but to call the changes a decline is foolish. “Missing” the shops is a pathetic sentiment. Patronizng the shops so they stayed in business would have been more consistent with your avowed preferences.

      • People who miss the “charming warm” Westport have the option to leave if they don’t like the Westport of the 21st century.

  15. Let’s rethink the whole process. If Alaska can get a “bridge to nowhere,” why can’t the State of Connecticut get funding for an eight-lane suspension bridge that would span the Saugatuck River? About half the length of the George Washington Bridge, it would start at the intersection of Compo Road & Post Road and go all the way across to the intersection of Ludlow and the Post Road. The Western tower would sit in front of the Arts Center and the Eastern tower would fit in the parking lot behind Restoration Hardware. Think of the possibilities:
    1. The downtown would always be in shade – no more hot, sweaty sidewalks.
    2. The rush hour traffic bottleneck at Main Street would be eliminated
    3. With no exit ramp to downtown, it would keep the riff-raff (what a great word) out. Only Westporters who knew how to get to downtown using back roads would be able to go there. Or tourists on foot (more about that below)
    4. With thru traffic eliminated, there would be no need for overtime police charges during holiday season for pedestrians crossing the Post Road at Main Street
    5. The space that would need to be cleared would give room for the expansion of the Westport Library
    6. The on ramps and off ramps required along Compo Road would end the debate about Barrons South and what to do with it
    7. As the largest suspension bridge in New England, we would become a major tourist destination – thus improving the local economy
    8. Finally, with all those tourists, we’d need extra parking and several high-rise hotels. We could pave over Winslow Park, parcel off the frontage on Compo Road to Hyatt. Marriott, et al and solve the town’s cash flow crisis.
    Ta-Dah! And you thought we needed a Downtown Planning Commission. Hah!

  16. I think its a great idea! When you go to NYC you pay and NJ …. People need to change with times.

  17. Nick Thiemann

    GREAT IDEA! About 25 years ago I chaired a committee to study downtown parking. We learned a few truths about parking. 1. People will park as close as they can to their objective (Y members to the Y so they can exercise). 2. Employees are a major source of scarcity of parking places. 3. Employees are the first to fill parking spots (they open the stores).

    The only really effective way to keep these parking spots available for customers is to systematically discourage employees from using them. Paid parking effectively discourages employee from taking prime spots all day parking..

    Main Street Westport does not service the every day needs of Westport. It is a magnet for upscale shoppers from around the county. If we have paid parking we also should let the merchants get the money. In return the merchants should support the infrastructure of downtown . This includes roads, parking areas, flood relief and restoration, and parking enforcement..They do this in malls.

    The difference between Main Street and a mall is that the tax payer subsidizes Main Street, and the mall subsidizes the tax payer.

  18. Hope Napelbaum Clark

    Not sure what all the fuss is about. I moved out of Westport 25 years ago and live in West Hartford. We have metered parking plus some surface town lots. The first half hour is free in the town lots and then it’s 75 cents for each additional half hour . The meters use quarters and each quarter buys you 15-20 minutes. We have a thriving Center and Blue Back Square. Tons of restaurants and unique shops. People come from all over as West Hartford Center is a destination spot. Living in the town I have no problem paying for the parking. It keeps the traffic moving, plus there are side streets to park for free if you want. Westfarms mall is ten minutes from the Center with free parking, but the stores are totally different than our Center stores (ie:chain stores). Our Center area is always busy and no one seems to complain about the parking situation, The busiest time in on Friday and Saturday evenings when the Center is hoppping when everyone comes out to eat. We have a movie theater and our main library is in the Center. If you park in one of the garages and go into the library, the library will validate your ticket for up to 2 hours, so a lot of people do that also. Maybe your committee members should take a trip to West Hartford Center and see how it all works here. I always find a spot, be it at a metered spot or in one of the lots, and don’t think twice about paying for it.

  19. Jane Nordli Jessep

    Having parking meters sounds at first hearing to be a terrible idea. And yet if the monies collected in this way were to be used for the betterment of the community, which I am imagining is the intention, then I say let’s do it. Many towns have parking meters and it doesn’t cause one to say “Oh, let’s not go to Barcelona’s in Norwalk, honey, you know they have those parking meters.” Somehow people survive the loss of the small change involved. In these tricky economic times finding less draconian ways to raise money for a municipality, rather than huge property tax raises, seems a worthy idea to at least consider. Asking the right questions of such a proposal is important, doing some inquiry is certainly called for but to not even consider the idea seems unwise. And I have lived in Westport off and on since I was in first grade, we moved here in1953 so I’ve seen many changes, some for the good some not so good. I’m sure we will continue being a shopping magnet no matter what.

  20. Westport Convert

    This is just like how Westchester County does it. Not a huge fan of it, but I also don’t see the need for a major uproar. It is what it is.

    That being said, I like the idea of either 90-minute or 2-hour parking limits. Invest in a downtown patrolman and issue tickets for violating. 50/50 split between the Merchants and the Town.


  21. Oh yeah, I can see it now. SIR Development will jump all over this. The first “McMansion Parking Garage will go up in Parker Harding Plaza, multi-level(at least 5), with a roof top, river view venue to rent out for weddings and receptions etc. Parking fees will do away with the meter problem on the street. The entire downtown can be turned into a pedestrian mall! Welcome to the 21st Century!!

  22. A westport commuter

    almost everything offered in these stores can be bought on-line. I hardly go into these stores anymore. Making it even more inconvenient to shop there–as in: I need lose change; need to time myself so meter will not expire; or pay at a central location and walk back to my car with payment sticker etc etc– will ensure I will not shop there. There is no single big attraction to make me want to go out of my way to shop there. To compete, Shopping in this area should be welcoming and pleasing.

  23. If we go ahead with this idea maybe Parker Harding Plaza could be renamed Harder Parking Plaza

  24. Hmmm, if Paul Newman were alive today, he’d be “cutting the heads off of parking meters, Captain.”

  25. Don Willmott

    Like a toll, a parking fee is a method of direct taxation that’s a powerful tool for manipulating behavior. You simply change the fees depending on the day and time, and people respond by arriving or leaving just as you want them to. What I don’t get is what the goals actually are in this case.

  26. Eric Buchroeder

    Do what Newman did: Shop in Weston.

    • Pooper Scooper

      Or do you what you did… Leave Westport.

    • How does one shop in Weston??

      • Eric Buchroeder

        Poop Sniffer: I used to see Newman’s own face all the time when I worked in the hardware store in Weston while I was in school. Weston does still have a couple of stores and no parking meters, doesn’t it?

  27. The GOP thinks they own the First Selectman position in the next election – and you know what, they will own it if the Democrats don’t get out ahead of this and finally repudiate the Corwin/Joseloff vision for White Plains/Westport. The Democrats own this mess, so even if the perennial underachieving Westport GOP doesn’t come out against it, it’s an election gift to them. Who will step up to plate and lead the challenge to this? We shall see.

  28. You all do not know Westport because the Westport that I grew up in no longer exist. People have come and still do come here and think tha t they are living in the country. Then one of the first things they do are make costly changes and leave town because Westport is no longer a small country town. So now we are stuck with all the grand ideas. I have lived here all my life and believe be the place has changed and not all in a bad way, but it is no longer that sweet small country town. It is just another town with people thinking they have moved to the country and they have little or no idea what country living is. I have laughed more reading this blog and the different opinions of folks that have come into Westport nd think they have all the answers. Usually they leave rather quickly after sucking up all that is possible. Things change and there is not much to be dne about it so that it.

  29. While Westport has truly changed since I lived there one of the nice things that hasn’t is the free parking downtown. Paid parking would eliminate browsers and artists which would be a sad loss.If they must have meters make it only for parking on main street–not in any riverside lot.

  30. Look out for Joseloff’s plan to redevelop downtown. I have not seen much publicity on it. It doesn’t just include a parking garage! Say good bye to Parker Harding. Hello to more stores and traffic. I bet the parking meters are a way to fund this.