Thursday, December 6, 2007 - 4:20am
The alders from the near east Isthmus, home to some of the City's biggest plowing challenges and the routes used by tens of thousands of daily commuters, are calling for a better plan of action in the way downtown streets are cleaned up after snowfalls like those in the past week.
Spurred by suggestions from constituents, the alders propose declaring "Snow Action Days," much like the Clean Air Action Days triggered by air pollution on hot, muggy summer days. During Snow Action Days:
1. Downtown City ramps would be available free starting at 9:00 p.m. instead of 1:00 a.m. to ease the burden on downtown residents who already have very limited parking.
2. Madison Metro would be free, and bus routes would be given a higher priority for plowing to reduce the number of commuters using the clogged streets.
The alders also suggested:
• Acquiring smaller plows to maneuver around the narrower streets downtown and to clean up after the large plows;
• Adding to the number of sand distribution points for residents to use around their homes;
• Using blast text-messaging, neighborhood listservs and other technologies to reach Madisonians, in addition to the traditional press releases, radio and newsprint ads;
• Partnering with neighborhood groups, landlords, employers and the UW to educate residents about what to do in a Snow Emergency;
• Increasing the amount of fines for parking tickets during snow emergencies; and
• Towing cars if they are parked in the same place on the two nights following a snow emergency and increasing the fine to cover the actual cost of towing.
"To say the least, our streets are a mess, causing headaches for downtown residents, commuters and the City workers charged with clearing them of snow and ice," said Brenda Konkel, District 2 alder. "We need to do a better job getting the plows out, getting out information, and creating additional options for people to move their cars in the congested areas so crews can clear the streets of snow."
"Many residents expressed frustration at the seemingly slow pace of street clearing considering how far in advance we knew the storm was coming and the difficulty of navigating sloppy, impassable streets," said Marsha Rummel, District 6 alder. "They wondered why streets in surrounding communities were cleared sooner."
"Although many people complied with the Snow Emergency rules and, in fact, stepped up to help their neighbors, many others aren't aware of what to do" said Rummel. "We should look for better ways to educate the public about the need to move their cars. There is a lot of resident turnover downtown, and it would be great for the City to partner with the UW to get information to faculty and students about winter parking rules and snow emergency options."
Tickets for violating the odd/even parking restrictions are currently $30 and appear not to be very effective at facilitating better snow plowing. "We need incentives - carrots and sticks - to get residents to move their vehicles, and we need to have a place to move them to," said Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12 alder.
Rhodes-Conway said the stick would come in the form of higher tickets and towing of these vehicles. The carrot would come in the form of more options for downtown residents to move their cars out of the way and for commuters to take public transit.
"The free overnight parking should start earlier than it does now (currently 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.)," said Konkel. "As commuters clear out of the ramps, those spaces should be available to temporarily get cars off the streets that need to be plowed."
The alders noted the changes could require action related to the City budget, City ordinances and City contracts. They look forward to working with City staff and the rest of the Council to refine and implement these ideas.
"More snow is coming, so I would hope we can consider these ideas quickly and find a way to make them and other good ideas out there work," said Konkel.
The alders expressed gratitude to the constituents who have communicated complaints and ideas in the last several days. "It's great that people offer suggestions in addition to complaints," said Rhodes-Conway.Contacts:
- Ald. Brenda Konkel, District 2, 608-345-8720
- Ald. Marsha Rummel, District 6, 608-772-4555
- Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, 608-242-4426