The Ins and Outs of Watertown's Winter Parking Policy
There are many different winter parking laws in cities and towns throughout the Greater Boston Area. Watertown's own policy hasn't changed for decades.
Three adjoining cities. Three different overnight winter parking policies. (And if you didn't know which city had which policy, you could probably guess, if you knew their "munici-personalities.")
In Cambridge overnight on-street parking is allowed all winter. (Hence, the picturesque sight of Cantabrigian vehicles buried by the snowplows after a storm.)
Watertown does not allow on-street parking in the winter (1 a.m. to 7 a.m.), and the town can announce a parking ban during the daytime if a snow storm is anticipated.
Waltham's winter parking policy might be considered the "middle-of-the-road" one: overnight parking is allowed, unless a storm is brewing, in which case all vehicles must be off the roads until the plows have do their job and the storm has passed. Like most cities and towns nowadays, Waltham uses TV and radio stations and reverse 911 to alert citizens of a such snow emergency.
In fact, in some places, like Jamaica Plain, there's more on-street parking during the winter, because street-cleaning ends in November and residents can then park on both sides of a street in the winter time.
So might Watertown's winter parking policy change, say, to a less-stringent one like Waltham's? Not likely.
"I've been on the force for 27 years, and I know that since at least 1975 it's been the same policy," said Sgt. Joseph Deignan, commander of the Traffic Division in the WatertownPolice Department. "The issue of the overnight parking ban (in the winter) has been brought up many, many times, but never successfully challenged."
If there's a snow storm during the day, the town can also announce a parking ban during the day via TV, radio, the city's website, and reverse 911.
"We can reach 35,000 residents within a very short time (with reverse 911)," Deignan said.
Deignan supports the winter parking ban, offering several arguments for it.
"If you look at Watertown's proximity to Belmont, Newton, and other adjoining towns, most with no overnight parking, if Watertown did allow overnight parking, there would be a flood from other cities," he said.
As for Cambridge's policy of allowing cars to park on the streets during a snow storm, "You never know if you're going to make it down the next side street (in Cambridge)," said Deignan.
The other argument for banning on-street parking in the winter is that it puts more pressure on landlords to provide off-street parking for their multi-unit dwellings.
For Watertown residents who don't have off-street parking, though, or who have to park in tandem on driveways, having to move cars on and off streets or in and out of municipal lots each morning and evening for four months can be inconvenient. Caveat renters.
A couple of years ago, the now-defunct website H20 Town blog, which covered Watertown, ran a poll on the winter parking ban. Among the several dozen respondents, 51 percent approved of the policy, while 49 percent were opposed to it.
"I think (the winter parking ban policy) works pretty well," said Town Council President Mark Sideris. "You always hear people who don't like – and some who think it should be all year long."
As for foot traffic, Watertown requires all commercial businesses to shovel a 36-inch-wide path on their sidewalks within two hours of a snow storm. But there is no law requiring private residences to clear their sidewalks.
According to Sideris, a few years ago a proposal came before the town council to make sidewalk shoveling mandatory, but it was defeated.
The DPW does plow sidewalks along school routes, at MBTA stops, and for crosswalks at main roads.
For more information, contact Sgt. Joseph Deignan at 617-972-6547.