Pilot Residential Parking Plan Elicits Homeowners’ Strong Reactions to “No Parking”

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Friday, July 19, 2019, 8:36 am
Andrew Graham

Above: Baldwin Court (photo by Raymond Holt)

East Lansing’s City Council approved new, less-restrictive street parking rules on five roads at Tuesday’s meeting following significant outcry from residents. The experience gained from this pilot program will impact how the City carries out additional changes to street parking in near-university residential neighborhoods.

The City had been looking at instituting a series of new “no parking” rules in the Glencairn, Oakwood, and Bailey neighborhoods as part of a year-long pilot program approved by Council on April 4.

The restrictions approved in April were contained in Traffic Control Orders 478 and 479. Order 478 prohibited all parking on all curbed streets 24 feet wide or narrower. Order 479 limited parking to one side on streets between 24 to 31 feet wide.

Those orders were to be implemented city-wide after a year-long pilot on select streets. The streets selected for the pilot included Baldwin Court, Southlawn Avenue, and Sunset Lane (north and south) in Glencairn, and Orchard Street and Durand Street (north and south) in Bailey.

But before the City notified residents in those areas, street crews installed new “no parking” signs, sparking instant outcry from owners of properties on affected streets.

In response, Department of Public Works Director Scott House put the plan on hold and led an effort to get feedback from residents, including through a pair of public meetings on June 13 to discuss the measures and their effect on residents’ ability to have adequate parking near their own homes.

“Subsequent feedback was mixed and included a strong desire for no changes,” House wrote in a July 11 memo to Council.

He told Council that “the feedback that was received illustrated the need for more direct communication with residents that will be potentially impacted, beyond neighborhood meetings and standard City communications. Moreover, the greatest challenge and main point of contention was the complete removal of on-street parking.”

With resident feedback gathered over the course of June and early July, House developed Traffic Control Order 480 – a revised plan. The new order, approved on Tuesday by a unanimous vote of Council, allows for one-sided street parking on roads originally left with none in TCO 479.

The new order also includes a 35-foot mid-block no-parking zone on Sunset Lane, intended to allow for two vehicles going opposite directions to pass by. The lone change from TCO 478 is the codification of the parking arrangement on Orchard Street.

“As this is a pilot program,” House’s memo reads, “future changes can be expected, and we remain committed to being flexible in addressing operational concerns.”

After ruffled feathers, residents appreciative of better communication

The original public outcry to the new no-parking rules was swift, as House got grilled at his June meetings by residents. On Tuesday, Council, House, and a handful of residents all spoke to the same lesson: With measures that specifically affect people, better communication is necessary.

The origin of the pilot program was resident and city concerns about MSU football gameday congestion and the ability of emergency vehicles to reach people in need. But the people who were having their streets’ parking altered hadn’t made complaints, and some said they felt “ambushed” by the sudden changes.

The second time around, though, residents felt much more involved, saying as much during Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“I want to thank the City again for getting us involved,” John Johnson, a Sunset Lane homeowner, said. He said parking restrictions are never welcomed but that the new proposal is “workable.”

Mark Axelrod, a Baldwin Court homeowner, echoed the sentiment, saying he and neighbors appreciate the City’s reconsideration and the residents’ “involvement in this round of changes.”

House said he hopes to continue communication with residents throughout the pilot, to potentially alter restrictions based on how people actually behave within them.

After staying silent for most of the discussion of the matter, Mayor Mark Meadows spoke.

“We need to interact with some of the people affected,” Meadows said, adding that this “prompts us to have a different approach to making decisions that affect a portion of the city.”


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