Permitting Railroad Parking

With Metro-North‘s power back (more or less) to normal, an “06880” reader turns his fire on the railroad parking situation.

He says:

As one of hundreds of residents waiting for a parking permit, I receive the daily $5 ticket. However, the police station is not open on weekends, or hours that a working commuter can use. If you are restricted to paying online, egregious late fees kick in.

Why can’t the town charge non-permit holders slightly more monthly, annually, etc.? Even charging non-permit holders double the equivalent rate that permit holders pay, we would save hundreds of dollars per year.

An annual pass is $325, whereas the $5 daily rate works out to $1,200 a year. There should be an option to buy a longer-dated pass at this rate.

train station parking

Also, mailing in checks doesn’t work for commuters who utilize the federal tax advanced commuter benefit accounts/flex spending accounts, and need to pay via credit card.

Another problem: I had to take my wife’s car one day. When you go to pay online, it’s only on one vehicle. I discovered too late that the 1-day $5 fee for my wife’s car turned into $75. There has to be a better way.

Paying almost 4 times as much as permit holders is fine. Just make it easier to pay, and not get hit with excessive fees.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Hit “Comments” to reply.

21 responses to “Permitting Railroad Parking

  1. Great questions to pose to our candidates running for first selectmen! There has to be a better way! I know the state controls the railroad parking, but come on!

  2. That exactly the problem…when the State is involved with anything…somehow it further adds a layer of burecratic rigmarole. Should be an easier way. I am sure both the candidates could chime in as they do read 06880.

  3. By the way…. If it were not for Asst. Police Chief Foti Koskinas, and a handful of other people, the station would not look like it does… He has lead a tremendous transformation of both station houses.

  4. Avi Kaner - candidate for Second Selectman

    Railroad parking will be an immediate area of focus beginning Day 1 after Jim Marpe and I are sworn into office. We have already been working behind the scenes exploring ways to reduce Westport residents’ waiting list time and to streamline the current process. We have had discussions with Gordon Joseloff, Police Chief Dale Call, Assistant Police Chief Foti Koskinas, our internal auditor, and others. Ideas include:

    1) Westport only parking on Westport-owned land. Currently there is one sticker and one waiting list for anyone wanting a permit. We will explore a secondary list for Westport residents only. The State will likely challenge, but we will fight the battle.

    2) Open the entire lots to daily parking after a specific time (e.g., 8:30 AM). Currently there are a set number of daily parking spots, and these always fill up. It is extremely frustrating to arrive at the train station at off peak times, see the parking lots half empty (e.g., summer), and not be able to park in a daily spot. Allowing daily parkers to use ANY spot after a set time is a win for the commuter and a win for the town with added revenue.

    3) Acquire more parking for Westport residents only. It is important to note that once the railroad area will be developed by the families owning the real estate there, parking will become an even greater challenge.

    4) Evaluate the number of hourly parking spaces. More spaces for daily commuters were opened up when we questioned the number of empty hourly parking spaces. The issue is that the local merchants need the spots on a seasonal basis. We will explore the concept of modifying use of the spots seasonally.

    5) Streamline the payment system for daily parking. We will explore automated methods to pay for daily parking including directly from your smartphone using Paypal.

    Another benefit to reducing the waiting list is that it may improve our property values as potential home buyers select Westport over other towns with longer waiting lists. Please feel free to contact us anytime at with ideas and suggestions.

    Avi Kaner
    Candidate, Second Selectman
    Chairman, Board of Finance

  5. John Hartwell

    The state does NOT control the parking. Although the station and most of the lots are owned by the state, permitting and fees are set by the town, collected by the town, and spent by the town.

    The original post says “paying almost four times as much as permit holders is fine.” I disagree. There has to be a more equitable way of pricing and allocating a scarce resource.

  6. Finally a politician offers some “hows” to solving problems around Westport. Sorry for being slightly off subject but there is too much “what”, elect us and we will… We need more how the problem will be addressed. Thanks, Avi Kaner for the specifics.

  7. As a former commuter, I understand the frustration. The $5 per day spaces were not intended for regular commuters, but unfortunately they are the only option for residents on the railroad permit waiting list.

    Chief Call and Assistant Chief Koskinas have been very creative in trying to find new parking spots for commuters. It was their idea to open some merchants parking off Railroad Place to daily railroad parking. They also monitor the permit lots and do open them to non-permit holders during off peak times. Trouble is, that doesn’t help commuters who must take peak trains and it doesn’t address the significant cost of daily parking..

    The payment arrangements for daily parking are entirely within the town’s control, so we can and should make them more user friendly immediately. (Chief Call also reads this blog, so I am sure he will respond..) Some towns sell packets of parking vouchers in advance at a discount from the daily rate. That’s low tech, but it could address the problem until we create an electronic payment system.

    Finally, making the public transit buses more convenient and accessible to commuters by expanding routes and times would offer an inexpensive alternative for commuters. It’s an option we should be pursuing alongside efforts to expand railroad parking.

    Helen Garten


  8. I wonder how many stickers are held by folks who hardly ever use them? Perhaps commuters from the 80’s and 90’s who certainly earned their commuting stripes but now maybe park 10 times a year if even that? Maybe there is a way to auction off these stickers or possibly offer an incentive to give these stickers up if they are not being used?

  9. I must expres gratitude to RR Parking for issuing tickets to out-of-towners who routinely hog the Handicap Parking spots. Many of them DO NOT have Westport parking passes and routinely mock those of us who do, insisting they can park anywhere free. Those places should be reserved for Westport residents who have paid for the privilege of parking.

  10. Too many permits have been issued for too few spaces. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it’s a frustrating game of hunt-and-park. The new lines painted in some places are clearly sized for compact cars, yet no sign indicates this, so a flotilla of spatially challenged commuters end up taking two spaces. Then there’s the parking cop who bestows favors to his “personal friends” (he admitted it when I confronted him about a guy who parks wherever he wants and never gets a ticket). And don’t forget the bevy of extremely healthy commuters with handicapped placards who leap, superhero-like, from their cars every day at the last minute. And this all happens before you have the pleasure of waiting on a platform for trains that never come. Congratulations all around.

  11. Dan, please note my new e-mail address; The Comcast address will be out of service. Thanks.

  12. Railroad parking permits should be available to any resident who pays property taxes on their vehicle – without a wait list. Parking should then be on a first come, first served basis. Just like any other Westport resource. Just imagine the uproar if there was a waiting list for a golf or tennis permits. Or school registration. Secondly, where is the accountability for the close to a million dollars in permit fees managed by the Police Department?

  13. Michael Smith

    As a daily commuter, Westport train station ticket holder, and Weston resident:

    1) It took 7.5 years for me to get off the wait list… I got on list in Aug 2004.
    2) Westport residents wait time is much faster… a friend who moved to Westport a month before me only took 4 years to get his permit.
    3) There is plenty of daily $5 parking during regular commuting times, as I used this method for the 7.5 years I waited for a permit.

    I grew up in Westport and it has ALWAYS taken years to get a train permit. If anything, it has become so much more convenient to be able to park for $5/day and get a space during regular commuting times… 20 years ago you would have to inconvenience your wife/husband to drive you and pick you up. I completely think its fair that Westport residents get a permit faster than out-of-towners… but I think that they need to put things in perspective.

    I am also in complete agreement about the misuse of handicapped parking. People take gross advantage of these spots. I would be willing to say that 80% of the people who park in these spaces are not handicapped… Many of whom I have seen run to the train. Furthermore, these people typically do not have train station passes and never get ticketed, even for $5/day parking. At the very least, Westport should ticket handicapped vehicles with $5/day parking if they don’t have a sticker.


    • Mary Ann West

      As a handicapped parking user (on rare occasion) we are indeed charged the $5.00 per day fee. I doubt anyone has seen me running for the train, although I wish I could.

  14. Bart Shuldman

    I believe you will find this very frustrating. A few years back under the last BofF, the Westport police petitioned and received I believe somewhere around $50,000 to quicken their ability to check cars on the railroad parking lot. It allowed them to but scanners so they could easily find the cars allowed to park. Instead of first listening to the residents about how time consuming and idiotic it is to pay the fine, they made it easier to give out the fines.

    This is was not slated for expenses that year so it was an additional expense. And it happened when OPEB was just starting to explode as a huge issue for Westport.

    If someone checks on this I believe this to be true. Hope it does not add fuel to the fire as they say.

  15. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Why not a town shuttle bus to and from the station?

  16. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Or, go back to the old days when spouses or friends dropped you off and picked you up? Or, drive closer into the city and catch the train from there? Parking in outside cities must be cheaper since they’re more plentiful.
    Or, hire a float plane.
    Finally, why not inside tags, rather than outside stickers, something easily moved from your car to a spouse’s car if need be?

  17. Ritter Friedrich

    A lottery or auction too much to ask for? maybe 75% on annual lottery and 25% through auction.
    Also any thoughts on a garage under current lot on northbound side? would double the parking spaces. not sure if the economics work for that though.
    Just spit balling here.

    Personally I like driving my Spouse to station every morning, but I realize that may not work for most people.

  18. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    It’s almost laughable how so many people see their “State” as a plot.
    A plot to undermine each community, parking stall by parking stall.
    When on earth will you work together, rather than just complaining?
    In the scheme of things, Westport is not a very big town. Yet, some continue to let small problems sweat into big, easily solved, problems.
    A lesser town would weep.

  19. As Chair of the Westport Citizens Transit Committee (WCTC), a commuter AND a person with a disability, I am very glad to see the Selectman Candidates weigh in on the many issues revolving around Railroad Parking and Commuting. It just so happens that RIGHT NOW there is a state-funded Westport Railroad Parking Study that is looking for input. Go to Westport Town Website, Residents Tab, Find Railroad Parking and the Survey link is there. In addition, the WCTC has an email address ( for town transit issues and suggestions.

    For over forty years,the Westport Transit District which has spearheaded shuttle bus services for all Westporters be they commuters, seniors, people with disabilities or students. The reality is that public transit effects us all and our Town needs to better coordinate, communicate and manage Transit-related services and developments like railroad and downtown parking, shuttle bus services, traffic safety/emergency preparedness, pedestrian and bicycle access, congestion and air pollution abatement not to mention their budgets and Federal/State Transit initiatives and grants. With town “gems” like Longshore, Center for Senior Activities, Toquet Hall, Leavitt Pavilion, Westport Library, Comp Beach etc, it is easy to overlook the fact that Westport has one of the best small town transit systems in the COUNTRY. Seriously.

    I know we can make it even better! Check out the Railroad Parking survey on the Town website and send in your ideas/issues and suggestions…

  20. Mark Shornick

    When people wait in line for years to buy something, isn’t that an indication that the product is priced substantially below its value?