Watertown Winter Parking Ban Dates Announced

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Watertown Chief of Police Thomas F. Rocca has announced the 2023-2024 Winter Parking Ban dates.

Effective Monday, November 27, 2023 and continuing to Monday, April 1, 2024 the Winter Parking Ban will be in effect and strictly enforced. The regulation reads in part; “No vehicle may remain on any public way for more than one hour between the hours of 1AM and 6AM all days of the week”.

  • For residents who lack sufficient off-street parking, the City allows for temporary parking at any municipal parking lot and other locations noted:
  • Municipal parking lot Behind CVS at 27 Main Street – Use metered spaces only.
  • Municipal parking lot Behind the Public Library – 123 Main Street
  • Municipal parking lot Behind CVS at 655 Mt. Auburn Street – Use metered spaces only. Do not park in spaces designated for CVS, or other private businesses.
  • The police station at 552 Main Street (visitor’s parking lot only)
  • Any public school parking lot
  • Victory Field parking lot
  • O’Connell Park, (lot at the corner of Boylston Street and Mt Auburn Street)
  • Filippello Park parking lot at 191 Grove Street (No parking in the spaces along the driveway)
  • 101 Morse Street – 14 spaces at the rear of the parking lot (spaces are marked with yellow striping and signs)
  • Parker Annex Building -– Former Parker Elementary School at 124 Watertown Street

Please note that these locations may be used free of charge, however vehicles may only use available spaces after 7 p.m. and must be removed by 7 a.m. the following day. Vehicles must be removed from school property no later than 6 a.m.  Violators may be towed.

Please remember that parking your vehicle upon any sidewalk is prohibited.  Your cooperation in keeping the streets clear of overnight parking and your sidewalks clear of snow and ice will make for safer driving and walking conditions and at the same time, allow the opportunity for the Public Works Department to perform necessary street cleaning and maintenance.

See more information and an explanation about the Winter Parking Ban.

26 thoughts on “Watertown Winter Parking Ban Dates Announced

    • When are we going to stop the nonsense winter parking ban and move to only restricting it during actual snow emergencies? Everyone in multi unit buildings juggling cars all winter to be ready for the 3 or 4 times it snows a lot is infuriating.

  1. The winter parking ban is not equitable or inclusive. It disproportionately affects lower income households such as renters. 50% of Watertown residents rent, according to the census data. Many people do not live lifestyles that can accommodate moving their car at before 7am, especially if they don’t live near a lot. Switch to the snow emergency parking ban model or we’re all going to vote the city council out of office.

    • I don’t think the City Council will be voted out of office on this issue since (1) it’s been in effect forever, right or wrong, and (2) only one non-incumbent even ran for ANY of the nine Council seats this year!

    • Hi Alyssa,
      No one in Watertown wants to be a City Councilor, they run unopposed term after term so you could not have made a more empty threat. Also, 50% of Watertown rents, but <15% of registered Watertown voters voted (3,697/25,295) in the election less than a month ago when the entire Council was up for re-election & only President Sideris had a challenger, that was Clyde Younger, a former Council President & Mark Sideris won 3/1 (he shepherded us through the school grant & construction process by putting in like a billion hours over the last decade for what I consider essentially no pay, I could not have done that; thank you for your dedication to that hard work Mark!). But to your point, the current Council hasn't even been sworn in for their upcoming 2 year term.
      I'd guess that 95% of the <15% that do vote are property owners who want the parking ban. The parking ban has been brought up repeatedly in the last 20 years but Watertown doesn't want the challenges Cambridge, Somerville & Waltham deal with related to parking/snow & they believe that it helps with traffic (at least a little) by encouraging people to use public transportation & not have a car.

    • Irrespective of the merits of the parking ban, good luck with voting the city council out of office when 8 of 9 councillors ran unopposed.

      • It’s a sad commentary. Not any criticism of the current Council on my part, but of the state of our democracy. On the other hand, the endless harsh criticism (often vicious and personal) on social media of anyone in public life these days doesn’t make it any more attractive an option!

        • With regard to the Council, I think that that a major factor is the compensation. Done well, it’s a hell of a lot of work for short money and difficult to justify to one’s family who will get shorted both time-wise and financially.

          Yes, criticism has gotten out of hand and too personal. On the other hand, reasonable criticism is part and parcel of representative democracy.

          • With all due respect Joe, “reasonable” is very much in the rear view window with social media the way it is. Anonymous voices (not in this venue luckily) spew vitriolic hate and bile on a pretty regular basis!

            And I don’t think the compensation is the issue. No one runs for office like this to make a lot of extra money!

          • Actually, Paul, I know of more than one talented person who chose not to run because of the time commitment and finances. What is essentially a volunteer Council may have worked many years ago, but with the challenges we face now, those days are over. City Council is a job.

            I also want to point out that since Charlie has required full names on comments, the debate on this site has improved. If one must make a statement under the cloak of anonymity perhaps that statement ought not to be made.

        • If people in this thread are unhappy about the policies of our City, perhaps they should run themselves next time rather than quietly hope that someone else does it.

          • Hi Matt,
            I was a Resident Member of the Charter Review Committee (2020-2021) & fought successfully (alongside many others) to empower the council to increase compensation of the council specifically to attract new talent & to change the power structure of our city govt & further empower those we entrust to run the city. I was disappointed when the council chose another small pay increase that failed to attract a large field of interested parties (the city should engage a firm to study this issue to discern if a pay increase alone, a change to full-time position or other solution would attract more well-qualified candidates to serve on the city council) but I have no interest in seeking elected office however, I can still contribute (as can we all) by voicing my opinions & concerns. Not everyone is in a position or has the interest to serve in this role but engaged citizenry is crucial to developing & guiding good civic policy.

  2. In my opinion, there shouldn’t be any parking bans or metered parking. The streets are public domain, and tickets/fees are a regressive tax.

    • I pretty strongly disagree with this – the streets may be public but spaces aren’t unlimited. Scarce resources need to be allocated, and the free-for-all you propose seems like it would result in whoever gets there first effectively appropriating this public resource for private use, leaving nothing for anyone else.

      I am all for public goods and services being free where appropriate, but here where each person’s use imposes significant restrictions on what’s available for everyone else to use, charging for access is better. By contrast, there would have be be an absolute ton of people using the library, the parks, or the T before their use significantly interfered with others’ use.

    • I feel like this is more of an argument for walkability, bikeability, and transit than it is for free, unfettered street parking. The underlying assumption is that everybody needs to drive therefore it is regressive to charge for parking because that benefits the rich over the poor. I think we should challenge the assumption that everybody needs to drive and is therefore entitled to free parking.

      There are negative externalities that come with cars and parking: pollution, CO2, noise, and danger to pedestrians and bikers. Those negative externalities should be priced in to the cost of car ownership. I could go on for hours about parking… but I recommend the books “The High Cost of Free Parking” by Donald Shoup and “Paved Paradise” by Henry Grabar, if you’re interested. The big takeaways is that there really is no such thing as free parking, we pay for it in other often more subtle ways and instead we should make those costs explicit instead of implicit. And also what’s more regressive than a built environment that heavily favors car ownership? It serves the well-off and burdens the poor.

      Parking also induces demand for driving. It’s hard to get people to change their car-using habits if the city is bending over backwards to make sure they can park everywhere. As Watertown’s population grows, which I hope it does, we can’t have a population that travels everywhere by car. An average street parking spot is around 150-200 square feet! That’s public space that we’re allocating to the storage of private vehicles instead of safe bicycle infrastructure and wider sidewalks. We’ve decided that having cyclists sandwiched between the door-zone of cars and moving traffic is a good trade off so that people can store their cars for free in public space. To me, this highly disadvantages and even outright discourages people from choosing to bike instead of drive.

      Free parking will lead to a tragedy of the commons situation, as Matt alluded to. Any attempt to cater to the car will lead to us building housing for cars where we could be building housing for people. Parking garages end up costing around $60k PER SPOT to build. If it’s publicly owned, then we’re still paying for it with taxes which could be used for other things. If it’s privately owned then they’ll charge people to use it or rents will be higher to offset those costs. Either way we pay a high price by housing cars instead of people in that space. As Donald Shoup says, “Its unfair to have cities where parking is free for cars and housing is expensive for people.”

      • Pushing back some. Not everyone needs to drive, but even though the city is 4.2 square miles, to get to the center/other end is a long haul for some, especially individuals with mobility issues. Bikes and public transit are not great when you have to transport multiple people or very bulky heavy items, If public transit actually worked, and I remember a time when it worked really well, then yes to fewer parking spots. As for Uber/Lyft, they are not necessarily the safest.
        Their business model is atrocious for passengers, drivers and communities! Most people have abandoned public transit. I can get into/out of Boston in heavy traffic way faster than a bus or subway. It would be great if cars didn’t use any gas but that technology, affordability and infrastructure is years away. As I mentioned to Matt above, spots are poorly planned and subjectively restricted. More parallel parking and making compact car the norm rather than the exception would be better than lots and garages. Plus, I am all for ban parking requirements for developers. However, parking spots are still needed, and tickets/fees are still taxes that take a bigger portion of limited incomes and can unincentivize small business visits, and the city needs that tax base. I think opening up better planned spots and bringing them closer to free – reducing ticket incidents/costs or increasing time limits may offset these regressive taxes. I would prefer a gas tax over theese. One can always get a smaller vehicle, which is more affordable. My VW gets great mileage! In the meantime, I won’t be getting on public transit any time soon or a bike ever since I prefer walking, and I have walked from the West End to Arsenal Yards despite narrow, unwalkable sidewalks – some days I am faster than the bus. So I if I can’t park in certain scenarios then I will frequent elsewhere, even when my property taxes pay for those streets already.

  3. However, that scarcity is most unnatural. It exists because of poor design and people imposing very subjective rules. Lot spaces should be smaller because not everyone drives a gas guzzler, and more uniform, not only in terms of size but time limits. 15 minute slots and the like are not equitable. First come, first serve is. Also, metered parking only becomes a needed option when parking on the street is reduced because of individuals’ wants, such as not having a car in front of his/her house for more than an hour. Outside of handicap slots, hydrants and illogical places (on crosswalks, at the end of driveways, etc.) there shouldn’t be such restrictions.

  4. I never did understand why we have an overnight parking ban.I can see having one in the case of a snow emergency, but just because it’s cold out I now can’t park in front of my building? It makes no sense. If you say it’s for street cleaning then I would like to see an actual street cleaner once in a while. If it’s so emergency vehicles can pass easier, this makes no sense, they have emergencies in the summer and the ambulances get through OK. During the winter I have to park at the middle school across the street from my building, why do I have to remove it by 6AM? School starts at 8:30 does it not? Now I have to get up at 5:30 when I normally get up at 7, that’s a hardship on me, as well as going up the incline to get to it, I have lung issues and climbing even a short hill is very difficult for me. Could someone please explain the actual reason we have this ban other than making people’s lives more difficult?

    • If you ever had your car stuck on the street in a snow blizzard, got plowed in, and then it froze you would want the parking ban. The ban is awful but the alternative is worse.
      for all you people parking with your cars, vans etc. hanging over the sidewalks so the pedestrians have to walk out into the street,
      “Please remember that parking your vehicle upon any sidewalk is prohibited”
      as the Watertown Chief of Police Thomas F. Rocca has stated above.
      You guys on the lower end of Palfrey st. know who I’m talking about.

    • I agree about bans, outside of snow emergencies, school zones, street cleaning, etc. there shouldn’t be any winter ban or overnight ban. We have so many on-street spots that are subjectively restricted because someone doesn’t want a car in front of their house. One side of the street is fine to restrict if it is narrow and has heavy traffic street, but the whole street where there is hardly any travel???

  5. Hi Andrew,
    There are many varied reasons why parking bans exist & persist & it’s a lot to explain but I’ll try – I’m only explaining, not defending & this explanation is not definitive. (I think) it goes back to quality of life for people a long time ago, when cars were less common & home-owners enjoyed the view of tree-lined streets, the ability to park in-front of their own house (or allow their guests to park there), the enjoyment of open space & lack of visual noise just outside their homes.
    Then more people got cars & needed to park their own cars in front of their house, then they parked in front of their house so they had a spot in the driveway for their 2nd car or guests, or the upstairs’ car. As car ownership continued to increased, residential density also increased & parking, for the most part, did not. Then people started parking around the corner or on the next street over & residents didn’t like that & it was compounded in some areas by shoppers parking in residential areas near commercial districts & people really didn’t like that because it also caused increased traffic on their quiet residential street.
    Then things like a car turning up every day in-front of a house that stayed all day, why? Turns out it was an employee at a local business & residents really didn’t like that because they might like to use that spot or have a guest, delivery vehicle or worker at their house who needed to use it & it caused a domino effect of who can park where or they just didn’t want their nice tree lined street filled up with cars all day every day so parking ordinances were developed & businesses were encouraged to provide parking for employees or reward using public transportation (I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just trying to provide insight about how parking issues evolved & were responded to).
    Then people from outside the area who also didn’t work in the area came & parked for free & took public transportation to their job & again cars were left all day (an even longer day after adding their commute), every weekday & residents & business owners hated that so deter people from leaving their cars too long in commercial districts, parking meters became more common. People from well outside the area would park in residential areas & leave town (take public transportation or a taxi to a train or flight) & cars would sit for a week or weeks & people demanded action.
    Density continued to increase which caused an increase in traffic, one way to slow that is to bring new residents who don’t have a car. A way to ensure that is to limit parking availability, not to stop lower income people from moving in, sometimes it was the opposite, lower income people didn’t have a car so no parking didn’t matter because they still had access to good public transportation that could get them around. Then a new generation didn’t buy cars & rideshare became the norm so parking demand started to decrease. Then density started increasing again & that generation that didn’t even drive, started buying cars.
    But other things also come into play in the winter, DPW has to plow the streets & manage the snow & cars on the street severely impede that & people forget or don’t know about occasional parking bans & it gets messy. Then cars get towed & people complain about that & those costs & without a parking ban 1/2 the year more people w/cars move in & there isn’t enough supplemental parking when the snow emergency bans do happen & people have to pay for parking garages far away & they complain about that.
    So at some point, property owners (aka long-term residents who pay property taxes, vote & are typically more invested & engaged in the community on a larger, more consistent, long-term scale) took the long view & said the town should implement a seasonal ban to protect the community & long-term interests. It’s a complicated issue (my explanation isn’t perfect) other things come into play too but hopefully this gives you some insight into why Watertown has a seasonal parking ban.
    I encourage you to consider that unless you’re home all day there’s no guarantee that you’d get the space on the street that you’re hoping for & how do you deal with on street spaces that people clear snow from & then want to keep? I lived in Boston & Cambridge; I personally experienced most of these things & understand that while it’s sometimes a hardship it’s a lot more complicated than people realize & overnight parking is something that should be well thought out before moving somewhere in Watertown that does not include off street parking.
    I hope this helped.

    • I know you are not defending. I am going to complicate it more. I have a large driveway, my family pays a lot of property tax, and I vote in every election. I could care less if someone parked in front of my house. The street does not belong to me. If you park in my driveway or on my lawn, which has happened, then you better move that car! I feel this way because the city needs renters, people of all ages, mixed incomes and others without such amenities. And they need to be able to function. Walking 30 minutes in the dead of winter at night is not just an inconvenience, it’s a safety issue. It’s is complicated!

    • Anne, thank you for this detailed look back at the socioeconomic history of street parking in Watertown. I’ve lived in East Watertown since 1978; your description is the story of our neighborhood.

      • Hi Libby,
        Thank you, it’s good to know that my words resonated with others. I appreciate your continued advocacy for trees in Watertown.

        Hi Rita,
        I appreciate your contributions to these (& many other) dialogues. You present a valid point/opinion but I wonder if everyone in your house feels the same way & that’s just another example of how complicated the issue is.

        Hi Andrew,
        It was pointing out to me IRL that I left out why cars have to be moved by 6am: while school may start at 8:30am, teachers & staff arrive much earlier & the lots have to be cleared & salted/sanded before anyone can park; there are several lots throughout the city that have to be cleared & they all may not be able to be done at the same time so DPW needs a reasonable window to clear all the lots consistently also accounting for unforeseen complications (deep snow, ice, staffing challenges etc). I hope this helped.

  6. One of the saddest and most damaging side effects of the huge increase in resident cars in Watertown neighborhoods is the resulting destruction of existing street trees. My East End neighborhood had many big healthy trees shading the street when I moved here. Most big shade trees species can live well over a hundred years, but my neighborhood street trees are pretty much all gone now, lost to the stresses of soil compaction, root damage, too much road salt, and construction injury.

    Every Watertown neighborhood could again be dappled with shade from beautiful, healthy trees, if we can reduce our need for street parking and make sure future city street renovation engineering supports long term tree survival.

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