Commuting to work via the Long Island Rail Road is exasperating and expensive—add on the stress of parking and the threat of tickets and it becomes madness.
At the Westbury train station, there are 637 spaces spread over two lots. The lot on the north side of the station is owned by the village (325 spots) and the one on the south side (312 spots) is owned by the MTA/LIRR and leased out to a private operator, according to village of Westbury mayor Peter Cavallaro. There are also approximately 50 additional curbside metered spaces around the lots that commuters can use with their village permits.Village residents can get a yearly parking permit for $65; for non-residents it’s $300. Parking in the privately owned lot costs $3 a day.
And though more than 600 spots may sound like plenty, the sheer volume of passengers commuting from the station makes every morning a mad dash for parking. If you’re there after 8 a.m., forget about finding a spot close to the station.
“It’s a pain in the neck. If you’re here after 8, the [village lot] is full and you have to park at the meter. It was fine until they gave stickers to non-residents,” said village resident William Joseph.
Salisbury resident Carmela Benti usually gets to the train station before 7 a.m. She said parking is easy at that time, but because she’s not a village resident, she has to park farther away.
“I used to be able to park closer, I think it should be first come first serve. I don’t want front row, but I want to be in the middle. For $300 a month, I shouldn’t have to be in the back,” Benti said.
Cavallaro noted that he personally hasn’t heard any complaints about a lack of parking in the village lot.
“During a few days, typically around the holidays and in the beginning of September, some of our permit holders have to park at the metered spaces, but on most days, the lot is not completely full. You may not always get the spot you want and have to walk a little farther, but there’s usually spots [open] during all times of the day,” said Cavallaro.
Cavallaro noted that the village is actively exploring the possibility of adding parking with a parking deck on either the south or north side. Westbury was recently part of a design contest that studied the possibility of such a project.
“The issue would be cost and getting grant money to pay for it,” said Cavallaro.
In Carle Place, commuters face the problem of having no parking lot at all. Residents in homes nearby the station will often find cars lining the streets, much to their frustration.
And commuters aren’t happy with the situation either.
“There is no parking at the station, which makes it very hard to catch trains there,” said Rosemarie Fazio-Norman.
“There is no parking at Carle Place, which gives you no choice but to park on the street. If you can find a spot on the street, you will most likely come back to a note on your car from a resident telling you not to park in front of their house,” says Carle Place’s Diana Caprio Seglin. “Not everyone in Carle Place lives walking distance to the station so parking for residents is definitely needed.”
Some Carle Place residents, such as Melissa Pittoni, go to other train stations to avoid the parking hassle.
“I’ve been living in Carle Place since 1999 and [most] of that time, I have been parking and taking the train from Mineola. We pay these high prices for a train ticket and we aren’t even provided with a place to park to take the train,” said Pittoni. “I think it is sad and ridiculous that in all these years the Town of North Hempstead and the LIRR has never thought to fix that situation for residents. I also feel bad for the people who live around the train station and lose parking in front of their own homes to LIRR commuters.”
With the holidays just around the corner, it is only a matter of time before parking lots at train stations across Nassau County get even more crowded.
“People should know that if they are planning to go into the city, parking [around the station] can be a little bit of a problem,” said Long Island Rail Road spokesman Salvatore Arena. “Parking availability becomes more difficult during the holiday season simply because of the volume.”
As holiday shopping starts to pick up, MTA officials say more and more residents will be taking the train into New York City in much larger numbers, typically during its off-peak period. However the MTA says the increased ridership should not impact daily commuters taking the train during peak hours, demand on weekends and off-peak hours tend to spike around the holidays, especially before Christmas.
And Arena said people should not be deterred from taking mass transit. “It’s better to go into the city by train rather than by car,” Arena said. “Even after the morning rush, you tend to have a simpler day if you use mass transit.”