AUBURN — As of Tuesday, June 26, drivers in downtown Auburn will be required to back into all on-street parking spaces in the downtown portion of Genesee Street from Loop Road to the Cayuga County Office Building.
According to a pamphlet distributed by the city of Auburn, back-in angle parking "is easy as 1-2-3." When drivers find an open spot to park in, they should use a turn signal to let other motorists know they intend to park. Then, they should pull past the parking space and stop. Lastly, they should back into the parking spot at a 45-degree angle and use their side mirrors to ensure the car is between the white lines. Signs diagramming these steps have been posted along Genesee Street.
According to city officials, back-in angle parking is safer than the previous front-angle pull-in method and will decrease the number of accidents related to parking on Genesee Street. A press release from the city stated that a parking study of Genesee Street revealed the downtown area had an accident rate of nearly three times the national average. The parking change was implemented as part of the Genesee Street paving project. Since the city accepted state Department of Transportation funding for the project, it had to adhere to state parking regulations, which prohibit backing out into traffic.
The city had the option to changing the configurations to parallel parking. However, 35 parking spots would have been lost.
During an Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District board meeting on Tuesday, City Manager Jeff Dygert said there are about 10 fewer parking spots on Genesee Street as a result of the parking change because the city made the spots one foot wider to give drivers "a little more wiggle room" to park. The parking spots are now about 10 feet wide, Dygert said.
During the meeting Tuesday, Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said the department is anticipating an increase in accidents initially as a result of the change.
"With any sort of change there is a learning curve and an expectation that mistakes like accidents may occur," Butler wrote in an email to The Citizen. "With that said, it is only natural to believe there may be a slight uptick of minor accidents as our citizens are getting used to the new parking patterns. We would ask our downtown visitors to remain calm, take their time and park in a slow and methodical manner."
APD Traffic Coordinator Officer Greg Gilfus said he spoke with officials from other cities that have back-in parking, such as Syracuse and Amsterdam. They reported that "at first it was a little difficult but once motorists got used to it, they reported that it is safer," Gilfus said.
During the first few weeks of the parking change, drivers who park incorrectly will be given a written warning. After that, violators will be issued tickets, Butler said. There are several different violations motorists can be ticketed for, including crossing the double solid yellow line to pull into a spot on the other side of the road, disobeying a traffic control device or, if the individual parks over one of the two lines for their specific parking spot, a double parking violation. Butler said the department is also looking into creating a local ordinance that "specifies violating the reverse angle parking rules."
In an effort to educate citizens, the city will be distributing instructional pamphlets and has created an instructional video that it will post on its social media pages and website, auburnny.gov/parking.
"Change is difficult for everybody, but it will be OK," Butler said. "I promise."