Town Officials Puzzled by Low Use of ‘Boxcar’-Designated Parking Spots at St. A’s

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Unused "Boxcar" parking spaces at St. Aloysius Church lot at midday on a weekday—Nov. 2, 2018. Credit: Michael Dinan

On its busiest day, the mobile app that allows commuters to park in the St. Aloysius Church lot has seen fewer than half of the available spaces taken, officials say. 

It isn’t clear whether the limited use of the Boxcar app reflects lack of demand or awareness, limitations in the mobile service itself, overly high rates, rigid parking habits or something else, officials said during Thursday’s meeting of the Parking Commission.

Though use of the St. A’s lot has grown since the Boxcar spaces opened in September with $7 daily rates, “the state lots at $5 fill up first,” First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during the Commission’s meeting, held at Town Hall.

“So at $7 I think it is probably a bit high,” Moynihan said. “It is their [Boxcar officials’] decision, so I don’t know quite what to make of fact that Boxcar hasn’t filled around 60 spaces at St Aloysius yet.”

With Boxcar, property owners designate spaces that go into a pool, and then motorists seeking to park go into the app and reserve those spaces at a daily rate. Moynihan has touted the service as a way to help address parking demand in New Canaan without large capital expenditures, such as building a parking deck at the coveted Lumberyard Lot next to the train station.

Boxcar launched two months ago in New Canaan with 60 spaces at St. A’s. The number of motorists reserving them has mostly hovered a little north of 10 per day, topping out at 29, Moynihan said. 

Commissioner Peter Ogilvie asked whether Boxcar has received enough “PR” or promotion.

Parking Manager Stacy Miltenberg said: “They were out there handing out fliers, every time somebody called I put it out there I tell them go onto our website, it explains all of it. It looks like we have the same seven people utilizing it, you can see by the names. So the people that want it are happy that it’s there. But it’s just not expanding.”

Commissioner Chairman Keith Richey said that Boxcar and St. A’s to figure out whether $6 may be a better price point “and then maybe the usage will go way up.”

“So it’s up to them as private landowners to kind of figure it out,” he said.

Ogilvie asked whether, in addition to allowing motorists to reserve spaces at St. A’s prior to parking there, Boxcar could be used by commuters who end up at that lot and then pay through the app once they’re on the train.

Richey said that’s not how the app is set up, though he said he thought “it’s a limitation because I think you cannot do it after-the-fact.”

“They have the pre- but not the post-booking,” Richey said.

Ogilvie asked how anyone would know the difference. Richey said that if the lot is “sold out” for the day, anyone trying to book a space “after-the-fact” will be blocked from doing so.

Given the high number of unused spaces at St. A’s, Ogilvie said the system has “got a long way to go.”

Richey said it was “interesting” that St. A’s has 40 to 50 open Boxcar-designated spaces per day.

“I’m at a loss,” Miltenberg said. “I can’t figure it out, other than maybe the price.”

The town also has designated one tier of parking at the Talmadge Hill Train Station lot as Boxcar spaces, and is gathering data about commuter use there. 

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