Town sees leap in ticket numbers

In an effort to better meet the needs of local business owners, the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) and Williams College Security have committed to increase communication regarding parking regulations on Spring Street.

There has been no change in the parking policy itself, but Police Officer Scott McGowan will be enforcing the one-hour limit with greater firmness and consistency.

“We would prefer not to write any parking tickets,” said Chief of Police Arthur Parker.

However, since the decision to make a concentrated effort to increase enforcement, the number of tickets issued has risen substantially.

According to town records, from October through December, 266 tickets were issued; during January and February, 429 tickets were issued.

The vast majority of the violations were issued for overtime parking, followed by prohibited area and overnight violations. During the winter months, the Police Department also hands out tickets for the obstruction of snow and ice removal.

There is a common belief that Williams students constitute the bulk of the parking infractions, but Christine Ross, executive director at the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, hopes to dispel that myth.

“This is not just a student issue. It’s a town issue. . .everybody needs to be a part of the solution,” she said.

Setting preconceptions aside, town and College officials make an effort to stress that students, faculty and even storeowners themselves are regularly cited for abusing parking guidelines.

“It was clear that everybody was violating,” said Dave Boyer, associate director of security.

No statistics were available regarding the breakdown of parking violations between the various community groups.

The time limit was originally instituted with the intention of ensuring open parking spaces for retail customers. Many Spring Street shops rely on accessibility and convenience to draw local clientele; when parking is unavailable, business revenues suffer.

Ross mentioned picking up pharmacy prescriptions and large artwork as examples of parking-sensitive business transactions. As a one-way road and Williamstown’s primary commercial artery, Spring Street is inherently reliant on a rotation system to facilitate efficient traffic.

A series of dialogues between business owners, the town and the College recently culminated in a letter to the community at large, to be released later this week.

The Police Department has agreed to share information with Security, specifically addressing vehicles guilty of repeated offenses. In addition, Security will meet with students guilty of multiple infractions in order to impart a comprehensive explanation of town regulations.

The increased enforcement imperative is characterized in the letter as “gentle but consistent.” Overall, the letter clearly intends to avoid any tendencies toward draconian punishment.

Ross expressed her enthusiasm for the new initiative: “All of the entities are communicating for the first time,” she said.

Communication has historically been a problem for the Town and the College, particularly for concerns directly related to student life. Students are encouraged to visit the Chamber of Commerce, located in Denison Gate House, to express their visions of Spring Street’s commercial offerings.

In many ways, the letter is emblematic of an effort to further cooperation. During Spring Street’s 2000-2001 transformation, Williams made 40 parking spaces next to the field house available to the town. The WPD has also begun to discuss with Security the possibility of sharing the boots used to penalize severe and repeated cases of parking infractions.

At present, the College owns 4 boots and the town does not own any. Boyer said that Security boots 20-30 vehicles per year.

For Security-issued tickets, only a small minority of students fall into the category of double-digit violators.

Approximately 25 vehicles per year have on-campus parking privileges revoked; revoked vehicles found on campus receive a $125 fine.

Students with unpaid tickets are also unable to register for classes and cannot graduate until their fines are settled.

Although Security will play no direct role in issuing parking tickets on Spring Street, the gesture of goodwill is seen as a step in the right direction. “We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Boyer said.

Some observers have also attributed the lack of parking to local drivers’ inability to execute parallel parking maneuvers. The idea has been raised that if vehicles on Spring Street were correctly and evenly arranged, perhaps more space would be available.

Whether or not such an improvement would make a significant difference remains unclear, but even Boyer admitted to having difficulty parallel parking on the left side of the street.