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.
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)