Overnight parking sign
'Eliminating the ban opens up the town to more density, negatively affects the quality of life .'
            -- Carl Wagner 

Overnight parking sign'We have one car ... and my neighbor has tw .... However, if they stopped renting to us, we’d have to find somewhere else to park.' -- Stacie Smith

UPDATED March 1: About 70 Arlington residents ― along with Select Board Chair Len Diggins, board members Steve DeCourcey and Eric Helmuth, and Police Chief Julie Flaherty ― attended the Feb. 16 remote special Select Board meeting to discuss Arlington’s potential overnight pilot that could start in late spring. 

Residents had their say for and against, though more speakers fell into the latter camp. Some speakers sought more information and clarification.

DeCourcey began by reminding everyone that all-night parking is currently prohibited from 1 to 7 a.m. on all public streets. “However, our traffic rules and orders give us the right to amend this, including hardship exemptions. Since 2018, the Select Board has received 55 requests; we’ve granted 28 and denied 27.”

He continued, “We looked at other communities that we compare ourselves to” and said the board now knows that, like Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Melrose, Milton, Needham and Winchester have year-round parking bans. Natick, North Andover, Reading, Stoneham and Watertown have a winter parking ban; Medford and Somerville have a fee-paying permit program.

Community members have expressed concerns about uneven enforcement and the potential hardship for tenants in multifamily properties,  DeCourcey noted.

Parking pilot overview

Select Board logo, 2019

He then provided a brief history of the potential pilot program:

  • 2021 Town Meeting: Select Board recommended no action on such a pilot because public-street parking regulations are within the sole jurisdiction of the Select Board. However, the board and the proponent of Article 87 (dealing with overnight parking) committed to further discussions of the potential pilot program in recognition of the substantive issues raised by the proponent;
  • Select Board forum, June 23, 2022: Those at the forum discussed what the board might do, such as a pilot, and the matter has been on the agenda at several board meetings. The town manager has met with Flaherty, Fire Department Chief Kevin Kelley and Public Works Director Michael Rademacher and received feedback from them. What has evolved is a proposed pilot on which the board hasn’t yet taken a final vote.
  • Discussions have taken place at  numerous Select Board meetings.

Although the pilot program has not been put to a final vote, DeCourcey said the consensus currently is that it would be:

  • Townwide,
  • Approximately six months (May to November),
  • One side of the street,
  • Be conducted via a permit program, with applications submitted to the Select Board; and
  • Paid for via a permit fee of $1 per day.
Resident input: in favor

All meeting attendees who wished to express their views on the proposed overnight parking pilot had the opportunity to speak. Several spoke in favor of the pilot, including the following:

  • Suzanne Reip said, “Clearly there’s a need for this. We should be more welcoming to people who don’t have an opportunity for parking.”
  • Konstantin Klitenik favors the pilot because, he said, “We need data. People assume that as soon as this goes into effect, the streets will be littered with cars.” He asked how the pilot will be enforced, saying that it would be much easier with stickers as is done in Somerville and Cambridge.
  • Stacie Smith strongly supports one-side overnight parking. “We have one car for a family of four, and my neighbor has two cars for a family of three. However, if they stopped renting [a parking place] to us, we’d have to find somewhere else to park.”
  • East Arlington resident Kellie Doherty says that there are parking issues even in the daytime. Doherty approves of overnight parking and supports the concept, depending on how it’s implemented. “Parking is a commodity in town, so it provides revenue. I like one-sided parking, otherwise delivery trucks cannot navigate.” Doherty also said the pilot program must be street-specific for maintenance and emergencies. “When high-rise apartments go in, residents will fill up the side streets, and, if not managed properly, it’ll turn into a nightmare. Some people may take advantage of it by renting out their spaces. However, I still tenuously support testing something.” 
  • Stroker Rogovin spoke of environmental concerns if people were to pave their front lawns to provide extra parking. “It’s ugly, expensive and an environmental disaster in a town with a serious flooding problem. Parking on the streets would solve many flooding problems and is a good idea.” Rogovin also suggested keeping track of the permit system to ensure that it’s just town residents who park overnight. 
Resident input: opposed

However, most speakers opposed the pilot:

  • Carl Wagner said, “Arlington currently has no transportation planner on staff. In a public vote, taken less than 10 years ago, 60 percent wanted to keep no overnight parking. People working for the town should make the quality of life as best as possible for residents. No overnight parking keeps the streets quiet. Eliminating the overnight ban opens up the town to more density, negatively affects the quality of life here -- and makes it difficult to park near one’s home.” 
  • Jean Clark is a self-employed city planner and until recently was a transportation planner for the City of Cambridge (2019-2021). Clark said, “The majority of Arlington TAC members think overnight parking is not a good thing to do without further review and a study. Parking is now constrained, and people make housing decisions based on this. Once we lift the ban, people may buy more cars. Arlington is a progressive community, and parking affects our climate crisis. Once we take away evening parking constraints, someone who has property can potentially make money with, for instance, an attic apartment if off-street parking is available.” Clark recommended hiring a professional transportation consultant to conduct the pilot instead of the Select Board -- and said that this should be done before the Select Board votes on the matter. “There are many reasons not to do this, and few reasons to do it.” 
  • TAC member Elisabeth Carr-Jones is distressed by much of the process regarding the pilot. “At the June Select Board meeting, it seemed to come out of nowhere to the general public. There was discussion of how the pilot is being put in place, not if. This issue has come before Town Meeting many times and always failed. TAC doesn’t recommend it, yet is the group that’s supposed to advise the Select Board on this matter.”
  • Ann LeRoyer, who lives on a side street in the Heights, says several cars park overnight. “My question is enforcement ― how will we know that someone signed up and has a permit? Will the car have a sticker?” LeRoyer also expressed concern about the logistics on how the pilot would be enforced or organized. “Lots of logistical questions need to be worked out. There’s currently no enforcement in town; the police cannot keep up with it.” 
Police chief on police staffing

Flaherty responded that the current parking regulations are in effect from 1 to 7 a.m. and shared how the department regulates compliance currently. “Typically, on a midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, we have four to five police officers working, so it’s impossible to cover the entire town, so they typically focus on certain streets to enforce, starting with the complaint streets first. We’re still looking into either a list system or a sticker system, and [we] are interested in exploring options.”

  • East Arlington resident Patricia Browne would like to keep the overnight parking ban, yet she approves of one-side parking and limiting overnight parking in the winter. “Delivery trucks park in, and block, the street. I want to see more enforcement and not feel that I have to rat on my neighbor, yet it pisses me off that they park on the street. We need to focus on enforcement if the pilot isn’t a done deal.”
  • East Arlington resident Elaine Maynard said that the new Mass. Ave. construction will reduce her quality of life because people will park in front of her house. “This meeting sounds like ‘we’re going to do this’ versus ‘we’re discussing doing this.’ I don’t see how this improves our quality of life, and [it will] encourage more cars. If we do this, it needs to be street specific.”
  • Andrew Fischer opposes the pilot. “During town sporting events, Mass. Ave. gets very crowded.” 
  • Darcy Devney said there’s insufficient room for all cars to park on the streets and that this could lead to trouble. “If you let someone park overnight, when will they ever park in their driveways again? It’ll make daytime parking more difficult, and I haven’t seen a lot of details yet.”
  • Christian Klein expressed concern about people parking [on public streets] for days on end. “Enforcement’s a huge issue. This is only for gas-powered cars; there’s no space for chargeable cars.”
  • Peter Fiore said there that are too many unanswered questions. “Approximately 35,000 cars are registered in Arlington. With only 55 requests for overnight parking, I don’t see a huge demand. I think this is going in the wrong direction. We should have car-free rebates to alleviate the parking problem.”
  • Kristin Anderson is concerned about the effect of lifting the parking ban for safety reasons. “Lifting the ban will increase the number of cars, which is hazardous to pedestrians and cyclists. I beg you not to lift the ban on streets without sidewalks. Pedestrians will be forced to walk in the middle of the road, which is dangerous. The town should encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transportation more, and drive less.”
  • John Rogers said that he is against this proposal; he asked what the plan cost will be before coming up with a fee figure. 
Resident input: concerns

Others expressed their concerns:

  • Chris Heleter said, “It’s a bigger issue than I’d ever imagined.”
  • East Arlington resident and TAC associate member John Aslanian agrees that it’s somewhat misleading to say that the discussion is about overnight parking, because it actually involves parking 24/7. “The concept is good, but the reality is housing cars 24/7. I recommend that any streets in school zones or near schools be eliminated from this pilot, because it’ll cause hardship for drop-off and pickups. We’re creating more danger for cyclists. A pilot can be done where we look at particular areas where we have a problem. I’m not in favor of street-by street because it’s not practical, but rather zone by zone.”
  • Jill Blanchard sad that enforcement will be a big deal. “A badly parked SUV or pickup takes up nearly half of East Arlington streets, and fire department and emergency vehicle drivers are not used to having cars parked on the streets. During the pilot program, we need to collect data on issues that arise, such as how many emergency vehicles are blocked and how many people call the police to do something about a neighbor who’s parking on the street. I advocate for a street-specific permit.” 
  • East Arlington resident Greg Dennis doesn’t think that this is a genuine pilot because its metrics are not clearly defined. “Allowing overnight parking unfairly impacts the community to make space for more parked cars. I’m a Town Meeting member, and everyone who’s reached out to me opposes this. It needs to be street-specific, but not imposed on everyone.”
  • Larry Slotnick said that an unintended consequence of the pilot would be an increased density of cars. 
  • Susan Stamps is confused about the process but says that it almost certainly will result in more cars parked on the streets.
  • Pam Toulopoulos inquired about permits for moving vans. “We don’t always have room for vans with people parking in the street.”
Select Board responses

After hearing all the resident feedback, the attending Select Board members weighed in:

DeCourcey thanked everyone for their comments. “There are a number of complexities here and a lot for us to think about before we make a vote. We’re talking about a pilot, which may allow us to have data to look at our hardship exemptions that we have now.”

Helmuth said, “Thanks to all of you for a good-quality discussion. I haven’t made up my mind about this, and comments will help us make a decision and move forward. Keep the comments coming.” 

At the Feb. 27 Select Board meeting, DeCourcey said, "The comments were all constructive, and we appreciate the input."

Watch the Feb. 16 meeting on ACMi:

Jan. 25, 2023: Overnight parking pilot to be townwide; fee undetermined 


This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Susan Gilbert was published Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. It was updated Saturday, Feb. 25, to correct a few minor points:the number of requests for exemptions to current overnight parking policy over the past 4-5 years, and the recommendations from and description of the professional background of commenter Jean Clark. Updated March 1, to add DeCourcey comment.

Donate button, 300pxThis reporting demonstrates your donations at work to support democracy here. YourArlington is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.Your contributions are tax-deductible.