Some lawyers who do business in state courthouses in Hartford have been forced to keep one eye on their legal work and the other on the parking meter. But no more.
After fielding complaints from judges, lawyers and clients who were fed up with paying $25 tickets or sick of running outside to feed meters, the city has increased the meter limits around the courthouses to four hours from two.
“I think Hartford finally listened to clients who had cursed Hartford and vowed never to return to shop or eat in its restaurants,” West Hartford lawyer John Bonee said. “I was starting to hear about more people who were trapped in court during hearings and couldn’t get out to the meters.”
Eric Boone, the new CEO of the Hartford Parking Authority, said it was letters from lawyers like Bonee that prompted the agency to expand the meter time limits near the courthouses.
“We completed a parking demand study and we learned that there was a morning session at court, and two hours was not enough time,” Bonee said. “Some people said, ‘If I’m meeting with a judge, I can’t interrupt because I need to feed the meter.’”
Bonee, among the most vocal critics of the two-hour limits, wrote a letter on the topic to the editor in the Hartford Courant. He said clients were affected just as much as lawyers—maybe more.
“They weren’t used to the parking around the courthouses,” Bonee said. “Some of them told me, ‘I’m never coming back’” to Hartford.
Many of the lawyers Bonee knows were parking in nearby garages, paying $9 or $10 to avoid getting tickets. With that in mind, and being that he is a past-president of the Hartford County Bar Association, Bonee said he started to let elected officials know about the problem. “I self-appointed myself to pursue the issue,” he said.
Bonee said he is pleased with the change to four-hour limits, though he finds the $7 charge for the maximum time “a bit steep.”
In what is being called a new “Courthouse Parking Zone,” motorists will pay $2 for the first two hours, with increased charges to add more time, up to $7 for the four-hour limit. The zone encompasses parts of Washington, Lafayette, Russ, Oak and Grand streets, flanking the courthouses for criminal, civil, family and probate matters.
The initiative to increase the time limits is considered a pilot program that, if successful, will result in meter limits being lengthened elsewhere in Hartford. The program, which includes the addition of 14 new solar-powered “smart meters” near the courthouses, was up and running Oct. 31.
Additionally, 30 pay kiosks were updated with new circuit cards allowing them to accept more forms of payment, including coins.
“Convenient parking is essential for Hartford’s economic and community development,” said Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarro, “and these customer service improvements in the Courthouse Parking Zone are just one of HPA’s many initiatives to meet specific neighborhood needs around the city.”