Metro-North ridership is at its highest ever in Connecticut, but for many of these new passengers, driving – and parking – are still a part of their daily commute.
Sean Haubert lives in Stratford and commutes to Manhattan each day. Not only does that mean a 90-minute train ride there and back; it means a 10-minute drive to the train station. He gets up around 5 a.m. and gets his toddler ready for day care. At 7 a.m. he's out the door, drops off his toddler, looks desperately for a parking space, and hurries to his train. But lately, he also has to worry about something else – getting a parking ticket. Of which he already has many.
“I probably have about 25 or 30," Haubert says, showing me a wad of parking tickets.
Haubert says he got these tickets because the parking payment machines at the Stratford train station weren’t working for several weeks. So instead of paying $5 a day for parking, commuters got a $5 parking ticket every day – but since most of them pay it online, the price jumps up because of a $3.50 convenience fee. The difference adds up after a few weeks. And it’s frustrating.
“We have a long commute…but we choose it," Haubert says. "The last thing we want to do is just be stressed out that, ‘is there going to be a parking ticket when I get to the station,’ you know? Are there going to be any spots left?’”
A spokesman from the Stratford mayor’s office said the payment machines have finally been fixed. Meanwhile, the town is working with the state to add 400 surface parking spaces near the train station in the future – but for now, Haubert still has to fight for a spot every day. He’s on the waiting list for a monthly parking permit, but he’s not sure how long that’ll take. His call to the guy in charge at Stratford’s railroad office wasn’t that helpful.
“The last time I heard, I was four hundred and something, but he wouldn’t say what that meant," Haubert recalls.
After talking to his neighbors, Haubert says, it probably means he has something like a three-year wait for a monthly permit. If he lived in other small towns along I-95 like Darien or Westport, the wait could be twice as long.
To see how commuters parked at train stations back in the day, check out ctmirror.org.