Ithaca: ‘Driving a Stake’ Into Odd/Even Parking?

Categories Ithaca, Politics

By Josh Brokaw

A new countywide notification system could be “driving a stake in the heart of odd/even parking” this coming winter.

The “odd/even” system, in place from November 1 through April 1, requires drivers who park on the street to alternate the side of the street they park every night. From 2 a.m. to 6 p.m., on an “odd” date of the month, a car cannot be parked on the odd side of the street, and vice versa on the even dates.

The concept is convoluted enough in practice to inspire a thousand curbside explanations of tickets early in the season. “If you’re parking on an even date, before midnight, you want to park on the even side,” is a common conversation starter around November 1. Odd/even has even inspired a website  dedicated to informing drivers where they need to park that night.

The idea of odd/even parking is to keep the streets clear for snowplows, and the law is in effect even when no snow is on the ground.

A new countywide mass notification system is being proposed that would allow the city to “turn odd/even on and off,” Dan Cogan, city chief of staff, told Common Council’s city administration committee on June 21.

“Assume for a second it’s November 2 and it hasn’t snowed yet,” Cogan told the committee. “We can send out this notification like I just did from my phone …”

Committee members, whom Cogan had entered into a test version of the “Swift 911” system the city and county is studying, started receiving beeps and chirps signifying they had incoming phone calls and text messages.

“The city may impose odd/even parking at a future date,” the message read. “It is your responsibility to know when odd/even is in effect … if there is any question if it is in effect we recommend adhering to regulations.”

“This finally could be driving a stake in the heart of odd/even parking,” Cogan told the committee.

The scene on North Aurora Street during March 2017 snowstorm. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Notifications of not only odd/even parking changes, but emergency alerts, road closures, and other important announcements would also be posted to Facebook and Twitter when messages are sent out on the Swift 911 system.

While a limited number of city staffers would have permission to post alerts, Cogan said, those alerts could be tailored to specific geographic areas – for example, if water was going to be running brown on a few blocks after city crews flushed a fire hydrant. City residents could opt-in to specific kinds of alerts, like they already can do for email alerts of meetings and job openings.

The city started talking about implementing a mass notification system last fall, Cogan said. Tompkins County started researching making it countywide this year as the search continues for “shared services” that the county can show the state it has implemented.

The mass notification system will next be discussed at the July 20 meeting of the Public Safety committee of the Tompkins County legislature.

Featured photo: Cars parked on Aurora Street in Fall Creek, December 2016. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

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Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.

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Twitter: @jdbrokaw