Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias There's no doubt about it.

Americans love their automobiles. We've had a long love affair with the four-wheeled contraptions.

The motorized wonders have helped make us one of the most mobile societies on the planet.

Over the years, they've grown faster, easier to drive, more comfortable, and more affordable.

In our quest to go farther faster, we've demanded and gotten more streets, highways, bridges and interstates.

The streets in Vermillion, naturally, were built to be driven on. What's become a growing problem, however, is that streets are also becoming the only place available for some homeowners and university and high school students to park.

A line of parked cars along a street's curb is every snowplow operator's nightmare. Instead of lowering the snowplow's blade and making a clean swipe along the curb, the plow operator often has to take a dipsy-doodle approach, swinging out around parked cars (effectively surrounding them with a higher drift of snow) and then turning back toward the curb until the snowplow must swing out for yet another car parked on the curb.

The end results: 1) Vehicles are trapped along the curbside within mounds of snow like ants stuck in amber, and 2) Street lanes are not properly cleared.

What approach may work the best to help the city of Vermillion better clear streets of snow in the winter and keep the streets cleaner in the spring and summer?

The Vermillion City Council's Policy and Procedure Committee held a public meeting Feb. 28 at the city library to gain public input on this issue.

One idea that was mentioned early on, and that seems to have the most potential for Vermillion, is the implementation of alternate side parking.

One version of the parking rules mentioned at the Feb. 28 committee meeting would require motorists to park on the even house numbered sides of the streets on even numbered days and on the odd house numbered side of the street on odd numbered days.

To ease confusion, signs would be posted on both sides of the streets.

It apparently is working well for St. Cloud, MN, which, like Vermillion, is a city with a university and undoubtedly a lot of cars parked on curbsides.

For such a concept to work in Vermillion, some crucial decisions will have to be made. For example, when, exactly, should the alternate street parking rules be in effect?

If our community were only worried about snow removal, a good time to begin alternate parking probably would be mid-November. The rules could probably be lifted in March.

That approach, however, would leave the street sweeper with the same problems that city snowplows have experienced this winter. Cars would be parked on curbsides all summer long, and many areas may not ever be cleaned.

We encourage city leaders to not set a particular season for alternate side parking.

We hope alternate side parking will eventually be adopted and accepted throughout Vermillion seven days a week regardless of weather conditions.

We believe it would be a mistake to allow snowfall of a certain amount to trigger the alternate parking rules. That would only leave the city open to countless arguments from motorists who failed to get their automobiles moved after enough snow had fallen to justify plowing.

It also would never get motorists in the habit of moving their vehicles in the warmer months for the street sweeper.

With change comes a set of new problems. What are university students supposed to do with the cars they leave behind in Vermillion when they travel out of town in someone else's vehicle for a weekend? Would alternate side parking work on one-way streets?

These are just a couple of the issues that were identified at the committee meeting as potential bumps in the road on the way to a more progressive parking policy. With everyone's cooperation, we hope those problem areas can effectively be smoothed over.

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