August 18, 2022

Commuters Howl About Paying for Parking at the Old Saybrook Railroad Station

Sign for $5 a day parking fee

“I think it is lousy,” said a rushing commuter about the new system of having to pay for parking at the Old Saybrook railroad station. She herself was avoiding paying, by parking for free out on North Main Street.

Another rushing commuter was Nancy Johnson of Old Saybrook. “I am sad about it. It’s awful,” she said about paying for parking at the railroad station. “What’s going to happen, when it snows? It’s going to get worse. People are going to get killed. There are no lights in the parking lot,” she pointed out.

Carolann McNeish of Old Saybrook also protested the new $5 a day parking fee at the station. “We need to encourage people to take the train,” she said. “This discourages them.”

McNeish said that she had called to complain about the new $5 fee for parking at the station. However, she was doubtful that it would do any good. As for her using the free parking area set aside for Shoreline East commuters, she said, “It’s always full.”

Even one of the new parking attendants, hired to collect the $5 fees, said, “A lot of people are complaining.”

What’s going on here? Well, it all began when David M. Adams, a partner of Saybrook Realty Partners, decided that it was time to charge for parking on the private property that his firm owns next to the railroad station. This property, called, Saybrook Junction, encompasses both the parking spaces at the shopping plaza, as well as those next to the railroad station.

To put the new “pay for parking” scheme into effect, Adams hired a large professional firm called LAZ Parking, and LAZ in turn hired two parking attendants to collect $5 a day parking fees from frequently puzzled parkers.

One parking attendant is on duty from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and the second, works from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Since there is no on site booth for the attendants to sit in, they simply wander around the parking lot trying to get parkers to pay the $5 fee for parking, when appropriate. When the attendants get cold, they sit in their cars to warm up.

Not enough free parking spaces for commuters

In addition to putting into place a new “pay-to park” parking scheme, an attempt has also been made to provide free parking for train-bound passengers at two of the station’s “park-free” areas.

Shoreline East's free parking area

One is an enclosed lot set aside for Shoreline East passengers, which faces North Main Street. On this lot there are 160 free parking spaces. However, the problem is that this Shoreline East lot is frequently full.

Also, there is a parking area reserved for Amtrak passengers. This area has 41 free spaces, and on busy days it too can be full.

Both of these free parking areas for train riders are well in the back of the Shoreline Junction’s parking spaces, so it is always something of a walk for Shoreline East and Amtrak passengers to get to the station.

Furthermore, Shoreline East and Amtrak riders are exempt from paying for parking, only when they are parking in their designated areas. Even if a person has a train ticket in hand, and shows it to the attendant, that is not good enough. They have to pay for parking.

The parking spaces closest to the new $6 million railroad station building are those which are reserved exclusively for the patrons of the “Pizza Works, pies and suds” restaurant. These “Pizza Works” parking spaces generally remain empty throughout the day.

Saybrook Junction, the private owner of rail station parking

Bob Kehayias of Pizza Works, while intent on preserving his restaurant’s privileged parking spaces, said in a recent interview that the solution to the parking problem at the railroad station is to build a new, freestanding parking garage, which would provide free parking for all.

Also, Kehayias said that at one time Amtrak owned the parking area next to the railroad station, but then sold them to a private owner, which he felt was very shortsighted. As for the present parking situation at Sayrbook Junction, he says, “Some people are upset and confused.”

Parking for free, away from the station

Still, some commuters have taken the new parking charges in stride. “It was a nice perk, while it lasted,” said one, referring to the days when parking at the station was free. When Pat Thompson of Essex on her way to the train was asked, if she was angry about having to pay for parking, she replied, “Not a bit.”

To end some of the confusion here is a summary of when “to pay, or not to pay” for parking on Saybrook Junction’s property at the Old Saybrook railroad station.

  1. Any person who is doing business with one of Saybrook Junction’s tenants, or who is an employee of one of its tenants, can park for free.
  2. Any person parking in the special area reserved for Shoreline East commuter parking can park for free, if of course they can find a space.
  3. Any person parking in the special spaces reserved for Amtrak passengers, which are indicated by painted yellow stripes, can park for free, if they can find an empty space.
  4. Any person parking in the One Hour Parking row at Saybrook Junction can park for free for one hour.
  5. Any person parking outside the Saybrook Junction parking lot, such as along the side of North Main Street, can park for free.
  6. Any handicapped person can park for free in handicapped spaces at the Saybrook Junction parking lot at the station. However, the handicapped parking spaces in the Pizza Works restaurant area require eating at the restaurant at the time of their use.
  7. Any person that parks in Saybrook Junction’s  parking spaces, which do not fit one of the above “park free” categories, must pay $5 a day for parking. Furthermore, if a person, who is required to pay, wants to park for more than one day, they must pay in advance for the multiple days and display their daily receipts, so they can be seen by the attendants.
  8. As a general rule those persons parking in spaces that are bordered by white stripes are required to pay the $5 a day parking fee.

David Adams, the partner-owner of the Saybrook Junction, said in a recent interview that by instituting charges for parking on their parking lot, “We wanted to get the situation under control and to alleviate the pressure.” Asked about what he felt about those people who are not paying for parking, when they should be, he said, “If there is a ten percent slippage, so what.”

Even with the slippage it appears that charging for parking on   Saybrook Junction’s property at the railroad station is making money. “It’s profitable,” is the way Adams puts it.