Welcome To Providence — No Overnights Please

violation How many visitors to Providence woke up this morning to find a parking ticket on their car? What a crummy way to end what might have otherwise been a very pleasant stay. This weekend many out-of-towners will be visiting our city for the first time. What if a ticket on their windshield makes that final lasting impression?

Exactly what options are available to city residents hosting overnight guests who arrive in cars? For most residents the options are limited and not particularly amenable to the way people live their lives. The ‘overnight guest pass’ program as it currently stands, costs money and must be purchased during business hours not allowing for much social spontaneity. Here are the options:

1) Purchase a resident parking pass for $100, good for one year. Then when you have company, you park your own car on the street and your guest uses your regular parking space. This assumes that you will only ever have one friend at a time. However, residents of apartment buildings over 5 units are completely excluded! (This is not a fact shared with taxpayers on any of the web sites.) You are not allowed to purchase a resident parking pass — you can have zero friends visit.

2) If you do have more than one friend, or you park on the street yourself, you can purchase an annual guest pass for $25. This can be used 5 times/month.  However, the annual guest pass can only be purchased by holders of a resident parking pass which, again, excludes all residents of larger apartment buildings.

It has not always been thus.

For decades, the police maintained what was known as the “Do Not Tag” list.  Residents with an overnight guest or two were instructed to call the Desk Sergeant after 9pm with the license plate number and the address and it was added to the list. The police officer responsible for that car post on the late night shift, would come in during that shift, sign for those plates, scribble them down in a notebook, and not tag those cars. This all changed in July of 2012. At that time the much-needed ‘Resident Permit Parking’ plan was instituted, but for some reason the “Do Not” list system was entirely abandoned, with no apparent thought to the possibility that people might still want to have friends visit once in a while.

And as for those who do live in the larger apartment buildings — sorry, you can’t have visitors. Clearly this limit was aimed at the dreaded college students who might have parties and do what they do. (Shouldn’t we be encouraging drunken college students to sleep it off rather than hop behind the wheel of their cars and head home?) But you know who else lives in these larger apartment buildings? Graduate students, medical students, I.T. and bio-tech specialists — the very people we are trying to retain. Shouldn’t we make this a welcoming, livable city?

(More background and my solution after the jump.)

Management of the Overnight Parking program falls to Parking Administrator Leo Perrotta of the Traffic Engineering Division (TED) who was asked how residents might entertain the occasional overnight guest. He was anxious to make it known that funerals, as well as residents whose parking lots were being repaved, were still being accommodated. There is however no mention of these exceptions, or a phone number to call, on either the Providence or TED web sites; Mr. Perrotta said people were free to call his office at 467.7950.

A partial solution may be on the horizon. Mr. Perrotta tells us that his office is working on a system whereby a one-off overnight guest permit could be purchased with a credit card, printed out, and placed visibly in the vehicle. This is still in the planning stage, only allows for one guest, and not everyone has a computer.

My solution: Bring back some form of the “Do Not” list that can accommodate people after business hours.

Here are some not extraordinary real-life situations that could happen to anyone: Emergencies when family members drive in to help; Weddings and graduations with several friends and relatives from out-of-town; Guests who are too drunk to drive home. And people sometimes just have especially good friends who may sometimes end up spending the night.

Turns out I am one of the people completely excluded from participation in the overnight parking program, and yesterday the city of Providence did not get my $100. Lose/lose.

5 thoughts on “Welcome To Providence — No Overnights Please”

  1. why are there permits at all? Is there a policy written anywhere that justifies this? A goal we seek to achieve that it serves?

  2. Mark Sawtelle

    The “Do Not Tag” list also previously applied if you had construction in progress that kept you out of your own driveway. Also no more.

    Note: a “driveway” is a paved area, connected to the street, on the grounds of your own house, in which you can park your car at all times. This amenity may be unfamiliar to some readers.

  3. Or, you know, maybe we could just allow overnight parking like most cities.

  4. Also, there’s no way for someone who does not own a car to acquire a guest pass for a friend who does or for themselves when renting or borrowing a car.

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