Railroad Parking: What Drives Empty Spots

It may have been the most vivid reminder of COVID’s effect on Westport: our nearly deserted train stations.

Now, more than 16 months into the pandemic, both Saugatuck and Greens Farms parking lots remain almost entirely vacant, every day of the week.

Many Westporters still work from home. Others have forsaken the train for increasingly clogged I-95 and Merritt Parkway.

June 30 marked the deadline for train station parking permit renewals. Yet despite the precipitous drop in ridership, most folks have paid to hold on to their precious passes.

The new normal (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

Railroad parking is under the purview of the Westport Police Department. (I don’t know why. But they do it well.)

According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas and director of railroad operations Sam Arciola, there are 2,500 total available spaces, at Saugatuck and Greens Farms.

Even in pre-coronavirus times, not everyone utilized their spots every day. By monitoring usage closely, the Police Department knows how many permits to issue each year.

In July 2020, there were 3,900 permits. About 70% went to Westport residents. Another 900 people were on the wait list.

This year, only 3,100 people requested permits. That cut the wait list nearly in half, to 490.

Why did the WPD not issue permits to everyone on the wait list?

With commuting patterns in flux — and a number of New York offices reopening this fall — Koskinas and Arciola were watching what happens. Now, they’re ready to offer permits to everyone on the wait list. That will happen around August 1.

Meanwhile, they see renewed interest from former parking permit holders who did not renew by June 30, but now wish to.

“We welcome them to reapply,” Koskinas says. Former permit holders — and anyone else with questions — should call 203-341-6052.

(Hat tip: David Loffredo)

In the absence of commuters, utility crews used the Greens Farms railroad station as a staging area after last year’s Hurricane Isaias. (Photo/Robert Cornfield)

4 responses to “Railroad Parking: What Drives Empty Spots

  1. Using Wheels2U is an alternative to a railroad parking pass. Wheels2U is an on demand, group ride, door-to-train platform service operated by the Westport Transit District. The fare is $2.00. Just download the Wheels2U app, request a ride about 15 or 20 minutes before you want to be picked up, and get a ride right to the station. See https://www.wheels2uwestport.com/ for more information.

  2. Morley Boyd

    I seem to recall that our railroad parking was once handled by a small committee. After the discovery of some, shall we say, management rregularities, the Westport Police took over.

  3. John F. Suggs

    My understanding of this little known historical “irregularities” was that one Westport realtor had figured out a way to game the system. With inside access to this town committee they were quietly offering customers who bought homes from them instead of their competition RR Parking stickers at the time of sale. No need to go on the years long waiting list. The scam was ultimately discovered and, to avoid this from ever happening again, the RR Parking Permit responsibilities was handed over to the police department. And that is why it is a managed by Westports Finest to this day.

  4. Tracy Flood

    Many people on Arab have said they never got their annual email
    To renew their permit. There must be a glitch on n the system. They should resend those reminders before giving away those spots. I had not know that so many go to out of towners. And the shuttles are not busy at all. They are still picking individuals up and dropping them off one by one at their homes.