Cars Parked on Narrow Residential Streets

by Sheila McElwaine
(Springfield MA)

Visitor Question: Our neighborhood of one and two family homes on small lots (5000 square feet on average) was developed 100 years ago when more people took public transport. If a family even had a car, they only had one.

If lots have a garage, it is a small one and normally used for storing trash cans and yard equipment.

Nowadays families have more than one car, some of them quite large and a few are oversized pick-ups. Many of these véhicles are parked on the street, narrowing travel lanes and reducing visibility at corners.

It is true that blocking traffic in this way may reduce travel speeds, but it makes a short trip into an obstacle course. Any suggestions?

Editors Reply: This is actually a fairly common problem with no good solution. It might be time for a meeting of your neighborhood association, homeowners association, or block unit. (If you don't have such a thing, this could be a good excuse for organizing one. If you need help with this, see our page on starting a neighborhood association.

If you have a friendly group of folks, some may try a little harder to figure out how to make driving down your streets a little more pleasant. There is a safety factor here too, both in terms of getting a fire engine or ambulance down your street and in terms of avoiding a child darting out from between two parked cars unexpectedly.

Your town might be able to offer a little support regarding lack of visibility at corners. It may have an ordinance prohibiting parking within a certain distance of an intersection, or it might be willing to entertain such an ordinance even if it were to apply only to your subdivision and others of similar age. This is something to explore with your city staff, and if there is no satisfaction there, with your elected officials.

If you are able to convene a meeting, maybe you could figure out some creative solutions. First we would suggest figuring out if you folks could live with restricting parking to one side of the street only. While it is sometimes a nuisance to live on such a street (and trust me, I know this one), it does bring a little order and predictability into the chaos.

In terms of unusual solutions, is there a commercial parking lot nearby that is not used in the evenings, where some people might be able and willing to park? Can you go together to fund part of the cost for some storage sheds for households that do have garages but are not using them because of the need for storing their yard equipment in the garage? Are the physical spaces and your income levels conducive to asking the city to levy a special assessment on your properties to pay for widening the street?

Yes, we know these are unlikely solutions, but if you can all talk it over, you might come up with something that seems equally unlikely. This truly depends on imagination in problem-solving among people of good will. If there is a failure of imagination or good will, you are kind of stuck, but at least it is worth trying to have the conversation.

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