Safety Concerns Lead to Discussions of Street-Parking Rules
Above: Butterfield Street on a game day in 2017, as shown in Scott House's presentation.
East Lansing staff and City Council are looking into whether to revise street-parking rules, particularly near MSU. This comes as residents continue to raise concerns about whether emergency vehicles can get through, especially on big MSU game days.
Following a presentation about street widths and available on-street parking spaces by Public Works Director Scott House at City Council’s non-voting meeting this week, the Council has asked the Transportation Commission for recommendations on a “uniform standard” for city-wide parking requirements. (View the slides from House’s presentation here.)
Over the last two years, the Council has heard from residents, particularly those of the Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood, about the difficulty with commuters and game-day visitors parking on narrow neighborhood streets.
Residents have expressed concerns that parked cars don’t leave enough space for emergency vehicles. Chesterfield Hills now has some areas with residential parking permits to mitigate this problem, but during discussions of that parking permit system, the idea of having a “uniform” parking policy for the city—or at least large neighborhood areas—was raised several times.
House’s presentation included information on typical vehicle widths as well as a computation of the available parking places within the city based on current enforcement policies.
East Lansing’s streets vary in width from less than 20 feet wide to more than 31 feet wide. The standards for new construction within the city dictate that roads must be at least 28 feet wide, although private subdivisions like Hawk Nest, where only local traffic is expected, are allowed 24-foot-wide streets.
Using an example from House’s presentation, a car parked on one side of the street with a pickup truck on the other and an ambulance passing between them would add up to a total width-need of at least 23.65 feet.
House said that many streets in East Lansing don’t have signs regulating parking, but that most drivers adhere to a “reasonable standard” when choosing where to park. He said that parking requirements might vary by neighborhood, and that in some neighborhoods, 24-foot-wide streets might be okay. On ordinary days, most drivers would not choose to park on both sides of a narrow street because it would not be “reasonable.” But, House said, a problem arises particularly on big MSU game days, when people are looking for free parking.
Councilmember Shanna Draheim commented that the problem was not limited only to game days, and that in her neighborhood, Chesterfield Hills, where permits are required to park on some streets, people sometimes choose to park on both sides of the street.
“Better judgment doesn’t always work,” she said. “People don’t just lose their minds on game day.”
Draheim raised the idea of a two-hour time limit in highly trafficked areas, an idea which she had also mentioned in earlier meetings when parking was on the agenda. Residents could be given permits to park cars longer.
“Consistency would be good,” commented Councilmember Aaron Stephens, a resident of the Bailey neighborhood. He said he frequently sees cars parked on the “no parking” side of the street because people are confused when an adjacent block allows parking on both sides.
Councilmember Erik Altmann suggested concentrating on the “near in” neighborhoods (near MSU), where student commuters and game-day visitors are more likely, in order to “narrow the scope” of the Transportation Commission’s recommendations.
But Mayor Mark Meadows, a resident of Hawk Nest, said that he sees a need for a “uniform standard throughout the community.” When residents park on both sides of the narrow streets in Hawk Nest, he said, “especially on trash day, I wonder how the trucks will get through.”
Note: When this article was originally published, it said that "Chesterfield Hills now has residential parking permits to mitigate this problem...." We changed this sentence to "Chesterfield Hills now has some areas with residential parking permits to mitigate this problem..." to clarify that not all of Chesterfield Hills has parking restricted to permits.
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