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Terry Cowgill
There is a two-hour parking limit on Railroad Street in Great Barrington with an overnight ban during the winter months.

In the event of winter weather, batten down the hatches—and move your car

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By Thursday, Oct 11, 2018 News

Great Barrington — It seems that, much like New England weather, people love to complain about parking in Great Barrington. And it’s bound to intensify in about a month when the town’s winter-season ban on overnight parking takes effect.

Public parking at the northern end of the Railroad Street lot in Great Barrington is prohibited because that section is now a private lot for residents of 47 Railroad St. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Don’t worry. There will still be parking lots where you can overnight your car downtown, even in the event of a winter-weather event. Indeed, town manager Jennifer Tabakin told the selectboard Tuesday night she had checked with Department of Public Works head Sean VanDeusen to make sure signage was up to warn motorists of the seasonal change.

Effective Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, through Saturday, March 30, 2019, overnight on-street parking is prohibited between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. Violators will be ticketed. Vehicles that block DPW snowplows will be towed at the owner’s expense. Other parking regulations, however, including daytime rules, remain unchanged.

“Sean went out and checked to make sure the signs were up to reflect the policy,” Tabakin said.

Parking on upper Railroad Street in Great Barrington is a mixture of street and lot parking. Photo: Terry Cowgill

In February, in response to concerns, the selectboard revised the town’s policy on overnight parking. For as long as most people can remember, Great Barrington had the same seasonal prohibition against overnight on-street parking that exists now. But two years ago, that policy was changed to a ban on overnight parking only during snow emergencies.

That latter change proved unworkable, in large part because of the difficulty in communicating the emergency and the need to tow cars that were parked defiantly in the way of the town snowplows, which needed to clear the streets during overnight hours.

The ambiguity of the previous policy prompted complaints from people who saw their cars towed during winter storms. One resident asked for a “thorough review and a change in policy” and for his $150 fine to be refunded.

See video below of a discussion of last year’s overnight parking policy change:

Overnight parking will still be available in some public downtown lots, including those on Railroad and Castle streets, with a four-hour limit on the Castle Street lot between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

But there remains a 24-hour limit on those lots. That leaves the question, posed by Selectman Ed Abrahams, of where downtown residents should park if they leave town for a few days without their vehicles.

Parking in the so-called Taconic lot between Carr Hardware and the Barrington House in Great Barrington is restricted. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“If you live in town and don’t have a parking place and go away for a few days without your car, what do you do?” Abrahams asked. “That’s the thing we haven’t answered for.”

“Last year we did consider residential parking stickers allowing [downtown] residents to park for more than 24 hours,” Tabakin explained. “We are a little reluctant to pursue that at this point, given the construction that’s going to happen on Bridge and Railroad streets.”

It was a reference to the upcoming repaving, sidewalk and infrastructure replacement of a network of core downtown streets slated for next year. That work includes Bentley, Bridge, School, Church, Railroad and Elm streets, as well as the parking lot between the rear of Carr Hardware and the Barrington House.

Overnight parking in the lot next to Great Barrington Town Hall is permitted, but there is a 24-hour limit. Photo: Terry Cowgill

“So it does feel like we’re going to be in a situation where there’s going to be more activity in the area,” Tabakin said.

If the selectmen wanted to pursue the permit idea further, Tabakin suggested hiring a consultant to study the matter or starting a permit system for residents as a pilot program.

In all seasons, for visitors or even locals who are baffled when confronted with the urgency of where to put a vehicle, the town government has published a nifty parking guide on its website. It’s got a map with a legend and a guide explaining the ins and outs of downtown and reassuring would-be patrons that “nothing is more than a 5-minute walk.”

The town of Great Barrington published a handy map showing the availability of parking, along with restrictions.

Parking in downtown Great Barrington has long been a sore spot for natives, visitors and merchants alike. Click here to read an Edge investigation entitled “Great Barrington’s parking shortfall: Fact or fiction?”

The general consensus among merchants and others was that more parking is always better than less but that the perceived shortage might be rooted more in not knowing where to look than anything else.

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