Tisbury leads Island in parking tickets issued
Tisbury officers said they would be quick to "double ticket" if a vehicle was still in violation after the first ticket was issued. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Whether they were paid, contested, or shoved in the glove compartment to share space with crumpled napkins and various Billy Joel CDs, 12,287 parking tickets were issued to Island motorists between January and August this year.
According to statistics compiled by the Dukes County parking clerk Carol Grant, the penalties totaled $161,030, and a third of all tickets were issued in the month of August.
Keeping an eye on your watch while parked in Tisbury may be worthwhile. According to a monthly breakdown, Tisbury led the other five towns in the number of parking tickets issued since January - with the exception of August, when Oak Bluffs reigned supreme in issuing violations.
In the first eight months of the year, Tisbury traffic officers issued 5,491 tickets, for a total of $71,450. Oak Bluffs issued a third less than that amount - 3,711 tickets for a total of $49,165. Edgartown issued even fewer: 2,602 tickets brought in $32,960.
With the absence of bustling downtown communities, the three up-Island towns issued significantly less parking violations this year. Chilmark wrote 336 tickets from January to August, Aquinnah issued 74, and West Tisbury gave 73 in that same time period.
The Island police chiefs said they keep up some level of enforcement on parking restrictions year-round, but the numbers fall dramatically in the off-season. In January, officers in Tisbury issued 191 tickets, compared to only seven in Oak Bluffs and one in West Tisbury. The other three towns did not issue any tickets in January.
Spotting that light purple leaflet tucked under your windshield wiper sends a shock of indignation through most of us, but motorists can rest assured that there are few surprises in the pricing system. Currently, all six towns follow the same rate scale when issuing parking tickets, Ms. Grant said.
Parking for longer than a sign dictates will draw a $10 ticket in any town. Officers will issue a $15 ticket for parking in a crosswalk, loading zone, bus stop or all night parking, among other infractions. A vehicle parked on the beach will obtain a $50 ticket, and parking in a handicap spot can draw a fine of $100 to $300, issued at the officer's discretion, Ms. Grant said.
When a ticket is issued, the motorist in violation is required to pay the clerk at the Dukes County offices in the Airport Business Park through the mail or in person, or make arrangements to contest the ticket (see sidebar for comments from Joe. Sollitto, clerk of courts).
Ms. Grant said the county receives 15 percent of the proceeds from parking tickets, but they only get that percentage after the tickets are paid. The rest of the money goes to the individual towns, which then have to pay registry fees.
Year-round enforcement, hosting the main Steamship Authority (SSA) terminal, and numerous restricted areas all contribute to Tisbury being the highest issuer of parking tickets on the Island, according to Tisbury police officer Tim Stobie.
In August, the town of Tisbury issued 1,257 tickets, for a total of $17,790, which was a decrease from 1,440 tickets issued the month before. Tisbury was the only town to see a decrease in violations from July to August.
Officer Stobie said of the ten traffic officers they employed this summer, five left in August for college.
"That cut down on the sets of eyes we had looking for people in violation," he said.
Two officers share the duty of issuing tickets throughout the winter in Tisbury, where at least 170 tickets were issued each of the first five months.
"People can't find a place to park, so they make one," Officer Stobie said of the congestion in Vineyard Haven, especially when a ferry is entering the harbor.
With four traffic officers on duty during a busy summer day, Officer Stobie said the town practices "double-ticketing." If someone receives one ticket for overstaying the designated time limit, they would be subject to a second ticket if they don't move from the spot at the end of a second time limit.
Officer Stobie gave an example that is applicable to Tisbury: If someone went off-Island and decided to park their car on Main Street, they would likely receive a $10 parking ticket for exceeding the one-hour time limit. "That's pretty cheap parking," he said, explaining why they would issue multiple tickets and eventually tow the vehicle in violation.
In Tisbury, the parking lots are monitored from 8 am until 8 pm, and one-hour on-street parking restrictions end at 6 pm. Officer Stobie said the officers focus on Main Street and the SSA terminal, but extend up to Owen Park and William Street.
With the absence of coin-operated meters on the Island, traffic officers use unique techniques to keep track of how long one vehicle has been parked in a single spot. One officer said she "chalks the tires" and makes notes in a book as to how long someone has been parked, as she patrols Main Street looking for vehicles in violation.
Officer Stobie said time overages and parking in a loading zone are the most common violations, and tickets issued for parking on the beach are rare.
Traffic officers in Oak Bluffs had issued the second highest amount of parking tickets on the Island by Sept. 1. With signs indicating timed parking spaces on Circuit and Kennebec Avenues, Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake said those are the most common places people get ticketed.
Oak Bluffs officers issued 1,452 tickets In August for a total of $19,970, up from 1,162 tickets in July.
Chief Blake said only one ticket would be given for a timed violation, but that a vehicle left unmoved for 72 hours is considered abandoned, and could be towed from the parking space.
The town has two parking and traffic officers assigned specifically to monitor those issues in the summer, but Chief Blake said all regular officers issue tickets as well. As for the off-season, "we enforce in the winter when we have parking and traffic officers available," he said, noting they usually do not have the staff. A total of 129 tickets were written for the first five months of the year in Oak Bluffs.
One of the more difficult areas to enforce in Oak Buffs is Seaview Avenue, where the signs dictate "24 hour parking."
"Twenty-four hour parking is the same as one-hour parking," Chief Blake explained. "We expect you to be there no longer than 24 hours."
Chief Blake said that Oak Bluffs traffic officers also monitor vehicles through the use of chalk.
Despite having one of the more highly populated downtown areas on the Island due to the presence of restaurants and bars, Edgartown does not issue as many tickets as the other down-Island communities. Edgartown parking officials doled out 1,032 tickets in August for a total of $13,990.
"We're not a money-making business," Edgartown police chief Paul Condlin said. "That's the impression some people have, but we're not in that business. It's a matter of control."
Chief Condlin said some amount of enforcement is kept up all year - and double ticketing is practiced - yet most of the downtown timed signs are seasonal. He said in May they start warning businesses that tickets will be issued again, and "after a period of time we think people have it."
Only 17 tickets were issued from January to May in Edgartown.
Chief Condlin said traffic in the downtown area this summer was less congested than past years, due to less ongoing construction work, and more available beach access to Chappaquiddick, which diverts people away from the ferry.
Main Street and most of the adjacent streets in downtown Edgartown are marked as one-hour timed parking spots. Chief Condlin said one hour is often not enough time for visitors to enjoy the town. "You want to give people a chance to go the bank, go to a store, or maybe have lunch, that type of thing," he said. "Parking in Edgartown has to be revisited."
Chief Condlin acknowledged that even though the signs say one-hour parking, they often try to give motorists some leeway, if possible. "We're reasonable, but we're looking for the public to be reasonable too."
Chief Condlin said that changing the time limit for downtown parking has been discussed in the past. While he said he would be in favor of three-hour parking - something that has been experimented with on Main Street - businesses then take advantage of the increase, and employees take up many of the parking spots.
"It's easier on us as far as not having one-hour areas where we have to monitor," Chief Condlin said. "It takes a lot of time and manpower."
Anyone who visited downtown Edgartown this summer probably noticed the designated group of young men and women with "TRAFFIC" emblazoned across the backs of their identical uniforms. Chief Condlin said nine people were hired this summer to control traffic and parking, and at any given time five employees were on duty to issue parking violations, keep traffic moving smoothly down Main Street, and keep the Chappy Ferry line in check.
"We need to look at the parking situation and make it better," Chief Condlin said. "But change is difficult."
Of the three up-Island towns, Chilmark ranked first for the number of traffic tickets issued, mostly due to the popular fishing village of Menemsha, said Chilmark police chief Timothy Rich. Chilmark issued 249 tickets in the month of August for a total of $3,535.
"We issue less tickets today than years ago," said Chief Rich, who attributed the drop to better signage and more practical enforcement. "Before it was crisis management, now it's more proactive."
Only 83 tickets were issued in July, and Chief Rich attributed the jump in violations to the weather. He said for the month of July the town was in an "up-Island fog" along with Aquinnah, which cut down on the amount of people making the trek to the beach or to catch one of their notorious sunsets.
In Menemsha, many different signs can be found, starting with 30-minute parking spots, and on up to five hours. Chief Rich said the time around sunset is always busy, and three traffic officers and one bicycle cop patrol the area in the summer months.
The signage in Menemsha - and other parts of Chilmark - is enforced June through September, and is "not an issue in the winter," Chief Rich said.
While Menemsha is the most trafficked area of Chilmark, according to Chief Rich, there are some tickets issued in the town center and where the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) buses stop.
The hot spot for parking tickets in West Tisbury is the Martha's Vineyard Airport, which becomes very busy in the summer, according to West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey. People regularly violate the time limitation in 15-minute loading areas.
Fifty-seven tickets were issued in the month of August in West Tisbury for a total of $1,180, and while Chief Toomey said they enforce the parking restrictions year-round, the numbers show that there was only one ticket issued in each of the first three months this year, and none in April, May, or June.
Aside from the airport, Chief Toomey said up-Island Cronig's and the post office also require a level of enforcement.
July marked the first time this year that a parking ticket was issued in Aquinnah. Thirteen violations were written out in July, but that number jumped dramatically in August, when 61 tickets were issued for a total of $910.
Aquinnah police chief Randhi Belain attributed the increase in violations to a traditional rise in vehicle traffic in that month, and better weather than the previous summer months.
With a year-round population of fewer than 350 people, the smallest Island town still draws its share of tourists. The Aquinnah Circle, Moshup Trail, Lobsterville Beach and West Basin are all places where tickets are written, said Chief Belain.
He noted that Aquinnah is the only Island town that issues a resident parking sticker and has designated places where people with those stickers can park. Thus, parking violations are often issued to people who park illegally in those restricted spots, Chief Belain said.
Double ticketing would take place if someone was parked for an extended period of time, and for the most part, parking restrictions are disregarded in the off-season, he said.
Chief Belain said Aquinnah does not hire a specific person to monitor traffic and parking. "Everyone on the force issues tickets," he said.