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New parking program restricts student access

Finding overnight parking on Providence's narrow streets has always been a challenge for residents, but City Parking Administrator Leo Perrotta said he hopes that will not be the case for long. This July, Providence embarked on a pilot parking program that enables city residents with cars registered at the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles to purchase overnight parking permits for $100, allowing them to park on most residential streets from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

For a city where overnight parking did not exist for the better part of 80 years, the program is a huge stride forward, Perrotta said. The program aims to help multi-family residences that don't have enough space in the driveways to accommodate all their vehicles. When there is a shortage of parking spots, residents resort to paving their yards in order to create spaces, he said.

This has a negative effect on the city in many ways. "The city wants more greenery, which it loses if people pave their yards," Perrotta said. Besides being aesthetically detrimental, this also leads to greater water runoff. "Units become difficult to rent without parking because people need places to keep their cars, which are difficult to do without in this day and age," he said.

Police and fire officials have confirmed that overnight parking would make no difference to public safety, Perrotta said. 

The program has picked up slowly but is going well, Perrotta said. "It's difficult to change something that's been in place for 80 years ­- people need to become acclimated," he said. He estimates close to 400 passes have been sold so far and said he hopes people will take advantage of the permits, which aim to "make the city more livable for everyone."

Many streets on College Hill falls under the program, but on the whole, it will not benefit undergraduates because of the eligibility requirements necessary to purchase a permit. Permits are available only to people living in dwellings of five units or fewer, which immediately excludes students living in a dorm. But students living in off-campus houses are not eligible if their cars are not registered in Rhode Island.

Students looking for parking cannot make use of the program by renting the permits from those in off-campus housing because the vehicle needs to be registered at the address where they wish to park. Drew Heckman '13 was denied a permit for this reason. "I don't think this will help any students on College Hill. People register their vehicles at their permanent address, not at an apartment they rent for nine months," he wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Lucy Bates-Campbell '13.5 lives in a house that cannot accommodate more cars, but she is also ineligible for the permit since her car is registered in New York. "I'm not sure what registering my car in Rhode Island entails, but I think it's a complicated process, which costs a lot of money. I'd rather approach some landlords around me who may have an extra space I could rent," she said. 

The rules to acquire an overnight parking permit from the program are similar to those followed in Cambridge, Mass., a city that, like Providence, has a huge student population, Perrotta said.

The only parking option the University currently offers to undergraduates costs $760 for 24-hour parking during the academic year, but many students choose to rent spaces behind nearby apartments.  


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