Commuters can add 2nd car to Westport RR station permits for added fee

Commuters who have permits to park at the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train stations soon will be able to add second vehicles to their permits for an additional fee.
Commuters who have permits to park at the Saugatuck and Greens Farms train stations soon will be able to add second vehicles to their permits for an additional fee.Paul Schott/File photo

Commuters parking at Westport's two railroad stations will soon be able to list two registered vehicles on their parking permits for an additional annual cost of $125.

The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday approved a fee of $450 for permit holders to list two vehicles on a single parking permit. It will take effect in June when permits are renewed, said Deputy Police Chief Foti Koskinas, who oversees operations at the town's railroad stations. He made the recommendation to the selectmen.

The fee of $325 will not change for those registering only one vehicle for a permit parking space, he said.

He added that both vehicles must be registered to the same household and only one of the two vehicles listed can park at a time.

Among the reasons for allowing two cars on the permit, he said, is because some families have more than one vehicle and prefer to use a four-wheel drive in the winter, the other car when it's nice weather.

Koskinas said the additional money received from the higher fee will "help with revenues needed for projects" at the two stations, which he estimates will cost about $1.1 million at each location. "The infrastructure needs work and there are other issues like drainage," he said.

"This is a good and clever idea," said Selectman Helen Garten. Selectman Avi Kaner called it "a quality-of-life issue," adding, "It will be well-received."

"I would like to see if we do this that the money doesn't get absorbed in the operations budget," said Representative Town Meeting member Kristan Hamlin, District 4, a member of the RTM's Transit Committee.

She suggested putting the additional money into a "maintenance and improvement fund that can't be touched" for any other uses. She said this also means not absorbing any of the funds into "the Police Department to cover administrative costs."

"Can we earmark the $125 to actual improvements?" Hamlin asked.

"Creating separate accounts creates a problem," said Koskinas, saying that question should be answered by the town's finance director.

And, he added, surplus money from railroad fees "is never used to supplement the Police Department budget."

The approved motion included a recommendation that the increased revenue be used only for "facilities improvements."

In a separate motion, selectmen unanimously approved a $35 fee annually for those on the waiting list for a parking permit.

Koskinas said he would be outsourcing the waiting list to a company, which will charge $20 per person. The extra $15 charged will become additional revenue, he added.

He said the waiting list for a parking spot, which now has about 1,700 names, is on an Excel spreadsheet. The new system will "manage the list better," he said.

Koskinas said the new system will show people "where they stand" in getting a permit. It will also provide "transparency," he added.

Kaner asked if the additional revenue would go into the same pool as the additional funds generated from the two-vehicle parking permits just approved.

"We are running a business and costs come up," said Koskinas, adding the money could go for other needs.

Kaner said the motion should include the recommendation that "this money also go for" railroad station improvements.

The motion passed with that recommendation.