Newton drivers beware! Local police resumed handing out tickets for certain parking violations this week. The city relaxed enforcement when COVID-19 lockdowns began in March, but the days of parking freely are coming to an end.
On Monday, Oct. 19, officers began ticketing drivers found violating regulations in resident-only and permit-required spaces, as well as those parking too long in non-metered areas, such as spaces carrying a one- or two-hour time limit.
Metered parking, however, remains unenforced — meaning drivers do not have to worry about paying the meter or exceeding the time limit in these spaces.
Ticketing of public-safety violations, such as parking in front of fire hydrants or within tow zones, was never relaxed and continues to be enforced. And come Dec. 1, Newton’s controversial overnight winter parking ban will go into effect as usual, barring parking for longer than an hour between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on publicly used roads.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wrote in an emailed statement to the community earlier this month that the city is resuming enforcement of non-safety regulations after residents began “raising more and more concerns” over clogged streets.
“As we begin to take steps toward reopening, we’ve seen more and more cars parked on streets in our neighborhoods, including those near construction sites, major employers and at our borders with other communities,” Fuller wrote. “These cars are parked for long periods of time, sometimes all day.”
In contrast, Fuller wrote, Newton’s village centers have yet to see similar levels of traffic since the pandemic began, which is why metered parking remains free.
“We want to make it easy for people to shop and get takeout or eat in Newton,” Fuller wrote. "The purpose of paid parking meters is to encourage turnover in parking spaces so our businesses can be accessible to shoppers.
“If spaces don’t turn over, we’ll start enforcing meter violations.”
Captain Jeffrey Boudreau, the Traffic Bureau commander for Newton Police, wrote in an email that while his department had noticed an uptick in complaints over parking since March, parking control officers will resume ticketing at pre-COVID levels.
“We do not plan to be more or less aggressive than we have always been,” Boudreau wrote. “Everything is subject to change depending on parking issues and complaints.”
Newton first relaxed parking regulations as part of the city’s COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency to aid households who suddenly found themselves working and schooling from home, a move that City Councilor Alison Leary of Ward 1 said in an interview made sense “when we were in the throws of peak COVID.”
But as families gradually transition back to in-person work and learning, Leary said, she started getting complaints of entire streets packed “up and down” with parked cars.
“It was getting to be that people on those streets, they couldn’t park in front of their house and there was traffic all day long, and people were taking advantage of the fact that they could park all day for free somewhere,” Leary said. “It wasn’t fair to the residents.”
Leary said violations were particularly apparent in her ward, which abuts Watertown to the north and Boston to the East, a problem she thinks might be the result of commuters parking and taking public transportation into Boston.
“A lot of the reason why we have parking restrictions there is that people would park and take the express bus downtown because the express bus is pretty convenient along Newton Corner and Brighton,” Leary said. “That’s why we have certain restrictions on certain streets.”
Ultimately, Leary said it is important for the city to enforce regulations while also ensuring that commuters have places to park.
“We want to encourage people to take public transit,” Leary said. “It’s a little like threading a needle.”
Joel Lau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.