New Canaan shouldn’t relocate or otherwise alter a frequently abused loading zone on Main Street, police said this week, because doing so would only move the problem elsewhere and risks an exacerbating intervention by the state.
Instead of making the loading zone at the East Avenue intersection shorter—or moving it, or changing the times at which non-truck-driving motorists are fined for parking there—the town should do all it can to notify drivers that it’s trucks-only from 7 to 11 a.m., authorities said during Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Police Commission.
The loading zone itself does get used sporadically throughout the day, New Canaan Police Community Impact Officer Kelly Coughlin told the appointed body.
“It does get busy on that upper half of Main Street,” Coughlin said during the meeting, held via videoconference, referring to Main between East and Locust Avenues.
“So I do notice that parking fills up, but the other thing I’ve noticed is the other half—the lower half, south of that intersection—there are quite a few spaces right by Connecticut Muffin, in front of Gofer, on both sides. A lot of those businesses aren’t open until 11 o’clock or in COVID times, even 12 [p.m.] or later, but a lot of people don’t seem willing to cross over the crosswalk or go a little bit further. People want the convenience of parking right in front of the store. So it’s impossible, if somebody happens to be right in front of Greenology but they’re going to Club Pilates or they’re going to another business in town. So I think there is heavy morning traffic but it’s coming and going, and the loading zone it needs to be there as an option, whether it’s used or not. I don’t think we should take it away completely. I think the biggest thing is just maybe notifying or if we can mark somehow just more getting people aware of when the enforcement area is. Outside of that, they don’t really have a problem. It’s really just that 9 to 11 [a.m.] window where people kind of get stuck in there and park where they shouldn’t be.”
Coughlin’s observations come after the Commission tapped her last month to study use of the loading zone in front of Greenology and make recommendations. The business’s owner, James Marks, has said the loading zone is under-used and that customers and delivery drivers are regularly ticketed from 9 to 11 a.m. (New Canaan Parking Bureau enforcement officers start rounds at 9 a.m.).
Marks voiced his concerns again this week.
“I continue to hear from customers who, they get tickets on a daily basis, including the Door Dash driver who just spoke to Kelly in the restaurant the other day,” he said. “He was in his car and he got a ticket. There’s got to be some sort of solution.”
Marks urged the Commission to consider shortening the loading zone to carve out one or two 15-minute pickup spaces for customers and delivery service drivers.
“Door Dash, GrubHub, these guys aren’t going to parks across the street and carry all this stuff,” Marks said. “They are going to park there. My customers, they’re going to gamble. They’re going to see the end, there’s four empty parking spaces there all morning, every morning. I very rarely see a truck loading or unloading there. The customer is going to gamble, they’re going to run in to get their smoothie or their coffee, and they’re going to run back to their car and they’re going to have a $30 ticket. I don’t know what business in that area on Main Street requires an 18-wheeler truck to make a delivery. You have that loading zone on Forest Street which is ideal for those restaurants there. There’s multiple restaurants. I don’t know in this vicinity on Main Street what delivery would take place in that big of a truck.”
Marks referred to a loading zone on Forest Street just past the New Canaan diner.
Commission Chair Paul Foley noted that New Canaan is a business-friendly town and said that he and the police will study the situation further to find out whether there’s an accommodation that can be made.
Foley noted that there are other places for customers of Greenology and fellow Main Street businesses to park nearby.
Yet “people in this town don’t like to walk,” Foley said.
“We know that. When we go into Manhattan we walk two, three miles a day. I walked 15, 20 minutes from Grand Central to my office. People won’t walk 10 minutes here. They won’t walk three minutes here. And we’ve never been able to solve that problem. People will circle the block on Elm Street over and over again. They will circle three times rather than parking over at the train staton and walking down the block. I don’t get it, but they do.”
Coughlin said that she’d taken measurements and noted that the loading zone on Main Street, at about 70 feet, is about half again as long as loading zones on Elm Street and South Avenue. She said the town may try to figure out whether it’s possible to create a single 15-minute parking space at the northern end of the loading zone.
Yet, Foley said, “If we start moving some lines, then the state gets involved.”
“It’s a state road and then it opens a whole other can of worms there,” he said, referring to a law that requires no-parking buffers within 25 feet of a crosswalk. Enforcement of the law cost the town 15 spaces on Elm Street in the summer of 2018.
Police Capt. John DiFederico said the loading zone on Main Street is longer in order to give egress to trucks that need to back up a bit to pull out.
“Again, the challenge is that crosswalk is right there,” he said. “And now we are encroaching on that. So now you are pushing any trucks closer to that crosswalk, which I think is something we want to stay away from.”
Foley told Marks, “We are trying to find a solution for you. I can’t guarantee a solution but we will take another look at it one more time.”