Using Technology to Help Enforce Parking Limits


Parking, especially during warm weather, is one of those perennial concerns around town that never seems to be fully resolved. Generally, there is adequate parking, but certainly, there are times (hot summer weekends!) when parking is at a premium, and residents and visitors get frustrated trying to find a parking spot in the village core area or at Singing Beach. Parking complaints remain common at Town Hall.
Enforcement of parking rules, while generally desired, sometimes runs into resistance when it comes to a resident getting a ticket! Staff are often requested to “just give a warning” or end up in disputes over what seems to be the simple facts of an incident – both situations put them in a difficult spot. Understandably no one wants to pay for a parking ticket. But consistency is important, and it is critical that enforcement be fair to all, regardless of visitor or resident.
Our primary enforcement mechanism has been seasonal Parking Enforcement Officers that the Police Department hires. These are not easy positions to fill, and, of course, officers cannot be at all places at all times, leading to spotty enforcement.
At the Select Board’s request, Police Chief Todd Fitzgerald investigated numerous options for parking limit enforcement. Parking meters are a typical approach that communities utilize. Certainly, meters can work, but they are not trouble-free, and they have a more urban look that many are reluctant to add to Manchester.
Another option that the Select Board has approved on a trial basis is the use of automated “safety sticks”. These are basically a solar-powered digital camera on a short, 41” tall pole placed at no parking zones or limited timed parking spaces that automatically detect when a car arrives and monitor the length of time it remains. If the vehicle over-stays the maximum time allowed a picture is taken of the license plate and transmitted to the police station where the ticket is finalized and sent to the vehicle owner. The devices operate 24/7 and thus offer continual parking enforcement coverage.
This automated ticketing system will be tested in and around the Village in a few dozen locations. Targeted areas are to include no parking zones and the stretch of parking spaces along Beach Street from the railroad tracks to Masconomo Park. The company that developed the system, Municipal Parking Services, pays for the equipment and installation. They receive a percentage of the ticket revenue generated going forward. Thus, the system does not require any up-front town funding. We pay for the system by turning over a portion of the ticket revenue.
You may have noted orange construction cones around the village. Small concrete pads are being poured at these locations, and new poles will be attached to them. The poles will be a new element to the streetscape and will undoubtedly take some getting used to. The Select Board wants to use this summer pilot period to assess the acceptance and utility of the new devices. While they are pretty confident the poles will improve parking compliance and better turn-over of parking spaces near businesses, it is less clear how well they will fit into the streetscape of the Village and how well they will be accepted by residents. This summer will provide a good test of their effectiveness and acceptance.