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Pittsfield Continues Alternate Side Parking Conversation

A stone building with a colonnade lit by lights sits in front of a brick churck and a street lamp
Josh Landes
Pittsfield City Hall

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Pittsfield City Council continued discussing the possibility of seasonal alternate side parking.

Councilors Helen Moon, Peter White, and Nicholas Caccamo introduced a petition calling for alternate side parking in February. It was then referred to the city’s traffic commission, which met February 27th.

“There was a pretty robust discussion about the city’s current existing ban on on-street parking between November and April,” said Caccamo, who represents Pittsfield’s Ward 3. Sergeant Marc Maddalena, head of the chronically understaffed Pittsfield Police Department’s traffic bureau, was at the traffic commission meeting.

“Officer Maddalena was really clear about how the city enforces or doesn’t enforce that ordinance, and it’s pretty clear  it’s low on the priority list,” said Caccamo.

While the department is budgeted for almost 100 officers, turnover and personnel shortages have kept it from fully staffing up.

“We just want to get to a point where residents can park on-street during the winter months, not feel like they’re going to get a ticket but maybe come up with some alternating way where streets can get plowed, emergency vehicles can still access those things,” said the Ward 3 councilor.

Pittsfield Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales was questioned by Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell about the cost of alternate side parking.

“Aren’t we almost doubling our time and labor and expending wear and tear on the trucks?” asked Connell.

The commissioner disagreed, saying it was unclear that costs would double.

“The right way of looking at this is right now, people park on the street,” said Morales. “So, it wouldn’t be a change from that. The only change in that perspective is that we have people parking on the street wherever they want. So we would be more efficient if we were to go to an alternate. It would turn into more efficiency, because we still have to go back, as we speak, to take care of parts of the street that were not plowed correctly because there was a parked car.”

Morales said while he wasn’t sure that alternate side parking was the answer to the city’s winter woes, exploring the plan along with others was valuable to Pittsfield.

“I see this as an opportunity for the department to evaluate the way we treat parked cars during winter storms or winter events,” said the commissioner.

In addition to ticketing being low on the police department’s list of priorities, Morales offered another reason for limited enforcement of winter parking codes.

“Actual will for the city to be out there ticketing people that don’t have other options, that are parking there in front of their house or near their house because it’s the only place they can park," he told the council. "And I think until we find a place for those that don’t have off-street parking an option to safely park, when we provide that, then I think we remove that complication from [the] enforcement equation.”

Despite Connell’s cost fears, Ward 2 councilor Kevin Morandi’s concerns about communicating the new rules the plan would call for, and open opposition to the plan from Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio, councilor at-large and council vice president Pete White said he was happy to sign on to the petition.

“Alternate side parking is fairly easy. January 1st, you park on the odd side. January 2nd, you’d park on the even side," said White. "So it goes along with the date if this is what we adopt. But it’s really looking at equity issues in our neighborhoods and making sure that we’re not setting people up to be ticketed just because they have no off-street parking or a parking lot that they can go to in their neighborhood.”

The council voted unanimously to refer the petition to Morales for further review.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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