Harder Parking

It’s 10 a.m., on a weekday.

Hoping to get an early start on shopping, you head downtown. You pull into the Parker Harding lot — but it’s already nearly full.

A great sign of Westport’s booming retail economy?

No. A distressing sign that employees are taking advantage of free all-day parking.

The decision during COVID to lift limits seemed wise. Many stores were closed, or on reduced hours. Why not make things easier on the folks we needed?

Now though — as the holiday season nears — parking needs have changed.

Parker Harding Plaza

A longtime (and very frustrated) Westporter writes: “All day long, the cars just sit there. There’s no room for anyone except the employees. Why can’t they park in other lots and walk a couple of blocks, like they used to?”

Why can’t shoppers do the same? you may ask.

The answer is: Because we’re supposed to make shopping attractive and easy.

The nickname for Parker Harder is “Harder Parking.” Seems like downtown employees — and their employers — make it even more so.

18 responses to “Harder Parking

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    The person who parked the Honda on the left of the pic should be spanked and sent to parking school.

  2. Michael Isaacs

    Gimme a break. There’s free parking all over downtown. At the library, across the street from the library, etc. So walk a few blocks. It won’t kill you.

  3. Where are employees and business owners supposed to park? I have offices downtown. Most of our team is remote, but they occasionally do come to the office. I am there all day every day. We all need a place to park our cars.

    I just hope I don’t inconvenience anyone by parking downtown to access the offices I lease.

    • Bill Strittmatter

      I would imagine they would park wherever they parked before the 2 hour parking limit in Parker Harding was suspended. There have been time limits there for years which presumably employees were able to handle in the past. If you are a new tenant post-suspension, you might consider a new realtor if they didn’t tell you about that.

      • There is all day parking opposite the police station– which is frequently filled with shoppers. I am more than happy to walk a few minutes to my office. However, Fairfield has spots reserved for downtown workers and it seems to work well.

        I grew up here and moved my business here purposefully. I’m all for a robust downtown– not one that is 50% for lease. I understand shoppers need to be able to access stores, Bill. But it’s hard enough to get workers at this point– Maybe we can make them feel welcome.

        But, perhaps, the slightest consideration for those of us operating businesses here?

  4. Michael Calise

    Seems to me I recall parking time limits and a merchant sponsored traffic patrol. Not sure but not a bad idea.

    • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

      We need that great Westport Cop on the 3 wheel Harley with the giant blue chalk stick to mark the tires and write some big tickets… Back to the future.

  5. Jill Turner Odice

    When I used to work at Selective Eye,way back when…we parked at “the dump”, or near the Police Station and walked from there. It was ok during nice weather, not so much fun in the snow or rain.
    We understood how important it was that the customers who shopped in the stores needed a place to park.
    Retail is a tough enough business, you need to make it easy for a customer to want to frequent your business. If you make them have to shlep through snow , they will just go to an indoor mall and spend their money there instead of your store.
    Westport has always has a parking problem, why don’t they just build a multi layer lot and solve the parking problem. ..It may not be pretty, but would solve the problem…may e they could even make it underground?

  6. Richard Johnson

    How quickly we pivot from “thank you to our essential workers!” (read: Starbucks employees who save me from the horror of making coffee at home) to “ugh, the little people are hogging MY parking spaces. They expect ME to walk? But I’m wearing my best pair of leggings!” I don’t necessarily disagree with the notion that employee parking should at some point revert to where it was pre-pandemic, but the person who wrote in sure is tactless.

  7. Isabelle Breen

    It seems to me that it’s not about employees having to give up spaces to entitled Westport shoppers, but rather about the ability for spots to be able to rotate. If a space is tied up for an employee’s eight hour shift then it cannot service the X number of shopper the store(s) needs to survive. On average that space could allow for 6-10 shoppers vs the one employee.
    I thought the outer road that ran along the river was reserved for employees and not shoppers. Has that changed? Over the last 5 or so years I stay away from Main St. for exactly this reason…it’s a hot mess.

  8. It is not good business practice to allow parking spots to be taken up by non-shoppers (employees) for eight hours at a time rather than multiple shoppers who will come and go during an eight-hour span. Until the rules are changed back to two-hour parking (with enforcement), it is up to the business owners to ensure that their employees are not parking (all day) in the customer parking spots.

  9. There is plenty of parking within a short walk — e.g., the commuter lot behind the Woman’s Club; across the river in the multi-story parking garage; behind the library. Walking is good exercise. Try it some time.

  10. Celeste Champagne

    Walking is good exercise, but some of us are hampered with spinal issues which preclude walking distances with a cane or walker. We save our strength for walking to the stores to shop. All-day parking at this site is just plain wrong.

  11. Christine Barth

    This is a problem that could be partially alleviated by an expansion of Wheels2U. Instead of limiting that service to routes to and from the train stations, including all destinations within the service area would allow some shoppers and employees to leave their cars at home. Norwalk has the expanded service, but here it serves only commuters. No single solution will solve the parking problem, but Wheels2U certainly could help.

  12. How about the Downtown Merchant Association renting parkingspace for their employees at the parkinglot behind the policestation and require their employees to park there. If needed they cud also set up a shuttle service from there to Main Street to make it easier, especially in inclement weather.

  13. As the Director of the Westport Transit District, which runs the Wheels 2U service, I’m glad to see the recommendation to take Wheels2U from the train station to downtown. Over the past two months we have been evaluating adding service between the Imperial Ave. lot and downtown to free up parking spaces for shoppers while still making it easy for employees to get to work. We hope to be able to be able to start providing that service before the holiday shopping season.

    More information on Wheels2U’s area of service, hours of operation, how to download the app and order a ride, etc. can be found at Wheels2UWestport.com.