With rare threats of snow this past winter, some in Wellesley figured the unwritten rule that you won’t get ticketed for overnight parking in residential neighborhoods would be in full effect. But those who did get ticketed know this wasn’t true, as has been discussed online and offline in recent months.
Some feel the overnight parking ban is outdated given recent weather trends, while other say having cars parked along streets actually keeps traffic speeds down.
“It sure would be good if someone from the town/police took more of an official stance,” one resident told me.
The reality is that Wellesley still has its overnight parking ban and there don’t appear to be any plans to change it. We reached out to the Police Department and Department of Public Works for their perspectives.
“Nothing here has really changed in terms of the enforcement expectations,” says Wellesley Police Lt. Scott Showstead. “The Town By-Law prohibits overnight parking on any accepted street in town year-round. We regularly ticket vehicles for this throughout the year.”
Showstead refers to the overnight parking prohibition in the Traffic Regulations, Article 5, Section 6. The Regulations are up to date as of January, and he believes the overnight parking ban goes back to 1968 when the Traffic Regulations were published.
Showstead confirms that “the police department is more diligent with ticketing for overnight parking while on patrol during the winter months due to the potential for snow, but it is a year-round prohibition. Tickets are still issued in the warmer months, particularly if we receive a complaint in a neighborhood.”
Residents are encouraged to alert the police if they will have guests in town, are getting a driveway paved, or have another reason for vehicles to be parked on the street overnight. “These special needs are almost always accommodated without a problem,” Showstead says.
There have been suspicions that the police might be making up for lost parking revenue during the pandemic by issuing more tickets, but Showstead says that isn’t true.
“Parking revenue has no impact on ticketing. The traffic and parking fund is supported by parking lot and parking space sales, however, parking ticket revenue is not returned to the fund. Parking ticket revenue, along with moving violation revenue, goes directly to the general fund and has no impact on parking or police budgets,” he explains.
Showstead adds that there’s no difference in enforcement for main streets vs. side streets except that patrol officers traverse the main streets more frequently on overnight checks for businesses and responding to calls.
The town over the last couple of years has begun allowing overnight parking, for a fee, in the Tailby Lot at the Wellesley Square commuter rail station for those who need extra spaces.
“There are a handful of residents who have found it useful for housing an extra vehicle overnight, but the overall use has been limited,” Showstead says.
Department of Public Works Director David Cohen says the overnight ban is helpful for his team, “though I do understand why folks might question it when the weather is mild. ”
Cohen says the main point is that “keeping cars off the road for snow and other operations throughout the year (such as street sweeping, pavement marking, tree emergencies, water leaks, and sewer backups) helps make those operations run smoother and helps prevent incidental damage that can occur when big equipment and work crews compete for space with vehicles parked on the street.”
Even though snow plows had a light season, the DPW had to treat roads about 20 times. “We can’t always predict which nights will require our salter crews to come in. Cars parked overnight can also lead to uneven treatment (think about salting around a car and then the car leaves in the morning) leaving untreated surfaces that can be problematic for pedestrians and others using the street. Overall, we very much appreciate when folks refrain from parking on the roads overnight since it helps make an already difficult job, often in tough conditions, a bit easier.”
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