As of a week ago, cars that straddle two parking spaces in downtown Hartford are subject to a $45 fine — a satisfying smack to self-important drivers and a boon to civil society.
Few things in life inspire as much self-righteous fury as cars that take up two parking spaces, especially in downtown Hartford, where on-street parking has been at a premium approximately since the first pairing of horse and buggy.
The problem was exacerbated years ago by the creation of parking areas without clear lines dividing spaces, something less than a master stroke of urban planning. It relied on people's good will to work. Of course, it didn't work. People tend to prefer larger, not smaller, spaces between cars when there aren't lines or meters telling them where precisely to leave their vehicles.
The city's parking authority has been busy adding stripes to its parking areas. The project began last spring and is about half complete, said Hartford Parking Authority CEO Eric Boone. Along Asylum Street beneath CityPlace and Hartford 21, for example, it's open parking areas. Around the corner on Trumbull, it's lined spaces.
This two-step strategy is long overdue. By establishing clear parking spaces, drivers know what's expected of them, and they will comply more often than not, leading to more available parking. And giving the city the authority to wallop the renegades with a decent-sized ticket might encourage some of them to park politely.
Boone said the authority looked into how other cities deal with the problem before proposing rules in Hartford. In New Haven, for example, cars can be ticketed if they are even a millimeter over the line. In Hartford, the ordinance says a car's leading edge — the bumper, typically — may be no more than 4 inches over the line.
But Boone said the city won't have a zero-tolerance policy. If drivers appear to make every attempt to park reasonably, they probably won't be ticketed even if they are a few inches over. That's smart. Nobody needs to be an ogre about this.
Until last week, the city didn't have any way to punish parking scofflaws. Now, though, there's hope that this persistent annoyance will become a thing of the past.