Parking Rules on Your Street May Change

Wednesday, January 30, 2019, 7:30 am
By: 
Jessy Gregg

Responding to citizen concerns about whether emergency vehicles can get through heavily-parked, relatively narrow streets, the City of East Lansing is gearing up to change on-street parking rules.

Some streets will convert to no-parking, with others changing from allowing two-sided parking to being restricted to one-sided.

Shifting parking rules on narrow streets for safety reasons:

At its last discussion-only meeting, on January 15, City Council asked Public Works Director Scott House to make a plan for prohibiting on-street parking on all curbed East Lansing roads which are narrower than 24 feet wide.

In a follow-up conversation, House told ELi that streets narrower than 20 feet which are not bordered by a curb and gutter may be classified as no-parking as well, “unless there is an exception granted.”

The reason is concern that emergency vehicles can’t get through if streets are over-parked, as during MSU home football game days. 

At the same work-session meeting, House and Council also discussed where to implement shifts from two-sided parking to one-sided parking. The basic recommendations are to consider limiting parking based on street width:

A pilot plan for the Bailey neighborhood:

The plan right now is to move forward with a pilot of this new system, in the Bailey neighborhood. House shared a map of the pilot area (bounded by Bailey Street, Burcham Drive, Ann Street, and Gunson Street) where he believes a test of the “one-sided parking for road widths of 24 to 31 feet” guideline would be effective. (See his full presentation here.)

The Bailey neighborhood was selected as a good candidate for a test since there are relatively few “traffic control orders” (specific parking restrictions) in place in that neighborhood. That makes it possible to see how driver behavior would change under the new rules.

One concern House has raised is the unpredictability of where parking will shift if new no-parking rules are implemented throughout near-university neighborhoods. The pilot should help track what happens with that, too.

What a larger change of parking policy would look like:

According to the presentation House made most recently to Council, if the new rules were implemented in all the near-university neighborhoods, where parking is heaviest, East Lansing would see:

  • increased parking regulation of a total of 75,000 feet of roads;
  • increased response options and quicker response times for the Fire Department (including paramedics);
  • improved traffic flow, especially on MSU game days, on residential streets.

The predicted net change in parking spots – if all the near-university neighborhoods saw implementation of the new approach – was presented by House in the following table:

Council raises questions and concerns:

At the January 15 meeting, Council Member Aaron Stephens asked about a forgiveness period while people got used to the new rules, and Mayor Mark Meadows suggested that instead of issuing tickets for the initial period of enforcement, violators could be issued a warning instead.

Council Member Ruth Beier asked what criteria was used to select which side of the street people would be allowed to park on, observing that allowed parking seemed to switch back and forth frequently in the proposal maps.

House explained that, when choosing which side of a street would allow parking, DPW selected the side of the street with least “encroachments,” meaning anything that would prevent parking already (such as a driveway cut or a fire hydrant).

He explained that feedback from residents had favored varying the side of the street where parking was allowed, as a traffic-calming measure. That way, drivers don’t see a long straight cut-through that might encourage them to use residential streets as shortcuts.

Beier questioned whether switching sides so frequently would require extra signage. House replied that DPW plans to install “no parking” signs at the beginning and end of each block, with additional signs in the middle of the block if it seems necessary. House, shown below, mentioned that failure to see a “no parking” sign was the most frequent complaint of ticket recipients.

Council Member Shanna Draheim suggested a six-month long pilot program for the identified portion of the Bailey Neighborhood, but Meadows pointed out that, if that started now, it would not encompass a football season. He suggested that a year would be a better time period to observe the true impact of the change.

It was Meadows who pointed out, during the discussion, that under the guidelines drafted by DPW, streets narrower than 24 feet should not allow parking at all, since it would not leave a lane wide enough for an emergency vehicle to get through.

Meadows indicated that since this situation had been identified as dangerous, the City should proceed with prohibiting parking on those streets at the same time as launching the pilot for one-sided parking in Bailey. Other Council Members seemed to agree with this sentiment, so Council instructed House to head in that direction.

What's coming next:

House indicated that he will prepare a Traffic Control Order (TCO) for the rollout of the one-sided parking in Bailey, as well as the prohibition of on-street parking for the streets which do not meet the safety guidelines which have been defined.

House tells ELi that the TCO will be presented to the Council soon at one of its regular meetings, and the Council will have to vote to accept it before it goes into effect.

According to House, notice will be provided to affected neighborhood associations before the meeting, and, "If a TCO is approved by Council that impacts a large area, notification will be sent to the impacted residents alerting them of the change."

Anyone wishing to offer feedback on the proposed plan can send email to citycouncil@cityofeastlansing.org, or speak during public comment at regularly scheduled City Council meetings.