Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

May 25, 2010

Message to Susan Clippinger, Director of Traffic, Parking, & Transportation

Filed under: Cambridge government — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:42 pm

May 25: Message to Susan Clippinger, Director of Traffic, Parking, & Transportation

Annoying as it is to have parking meters in front of my house at which you personally park YOUR car all day on most days, it is especially annoying when one of your thoroughly unprofessional parking officers chooses to harass me for pulling up in front of my house to unload groceries for all of two minutes without feeding the meter. When I asked her to just cut me some slack, she circled back to the meter getting ready to write me a ticket. She told me to take it up with you, so I am.

From which pool exactly do you draw your employees, Susan? Recent news stories suggest it’s a rather shallow pool. This particular “officer” is apparently well known for her harassment of people. I feel certain that now that she has matched my address, my face, and my vehicle I can expect to get “special treatment” from her at every turn. Perhaps I’ll point her out to you when next we meet. In the meantime, perhaps you’ll finally give some consideration to a policy regarding people without driveways and with parking meters in front of their homes. In my case, the primary users of the metered spaces on Broadway and on Inman Street are those coming to visit your very own department at 344 Broadway. Would it be so difficult for you to instruct your officers to cut some slack for the actual residents of these streets who need to occasionally unload groceries? Would that kill you, Susan?

Councillor Toomey has raised this issue on numerous occasions and you’ve ignored him every time. No wonder most elected officials hold you in such low regard. If the state-mandated Traffic Board existed, I would petition them, but you have chosen to ignore state law for many years now – leaving citizens no recourse other than to beg you when they feel a regulation should be changed. In the meantime, just cut us a little slack, OK? – Robert Winters

9 Comments

  1. Hi Robert, I won’t get Started on Ms. Clippinger, but now maybe you will have a little more sympathy for those of us who have had basically the same experience from most or all of the city departments, boards, and commissions staffed by Mr. Healy.

    Comment by Mark Jaquith — May 25, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

  2. I know exactly how you feel.
    A month ago I had much needed work done to my heating system. When the workers parked by the side of my house for 10-15 minutes to unload equipment, they were hounded by traffic and parking.
    The large (important) building across the street has had an illegally parked construction truck working since 6am today. No barrels that they requested this, since they know they don’t need to. It’s normal for trucks to illegal park next to that building.

    Comment by Jay Wasserman — May 26, 2010 @ 8:12 am

  3. My experience with almost all City departments and commissions has been very positive. The Public Works Department collectively understands what it means to be “neighborly” and they pride themselves on their service delivery. I would say the same thing about the Water Department, the Historical Commission, and several other departments. There are people in Traffic & Parking who understand what it means to be fair, reasonable, and neighborly, but they don’t call the shots. I have very positive impressions of the overwhelming majority of City Manager Bob Healy’s appointments of department heads and members of citizen boards.

    There is, however, something almost pathological about the Department of Traffic, Parking, & Transportation. At the top of my list is the refusal to abide by state law and restore the appointed Traffic Board. There’s a good reason why this Board must exist. Ms. Clippinger now has absolute authority to issue any regulations she wishes as long as they don’t conflict with state law. There has to be a means of redress when people feel that regulations are wrong and should be changed, and that mechanism is the Traffic Board which would have statutory authority to overrule Ms. Clippinger. It is inexcusable that she has managed to get away with retaining absolute authority for as long as she has. The City Council must be asleep at the switch to have not insisted on the appointment of a Traffic Board.

    My other beef with T&P (other than the fact that their hiring standards leave a lot to be desired) is their seeming inability to match regulations to reality. For example, in my mixed residential/commercial neighborhood on Broadway, there are almost no remaining commercial interests. Nonetheless, Ms. Clippinger has added metered parking at every turn. Why not just have the two-hour limit? How about allowing residents to use the metered spaces between 8am and 10am when there is little demand rather than be forced to get up in order to move their vehicles? The primary users of the metered spaces are unlucky residents and those visiting the City Hall Annex, yet the Annex building is closed after noon on Fridays and all day Saturday. So why are the meters still in effect then? There’s more than a little observational evidence that having metered parking in this neighborhood is just a clever way to reserve on-street parking for those working at the City Hall Annex, including Ms. Clippinger.

    I can show you photos of locations in Somerville and Boston’s Chinatown where sensible solutions have been enacted to better balance the needs of business and residents. The uninspired approach in Cambridge is that it’s either a parking meter or resident only parking except in a few remaining enclaves like Huron Village. I might be satisfied if Ms. Clippinger could at least establish a reasonable policy for unloading groceries without harassment and if vehicles with a resident stickers could get a waiver until 10am for metered spaces in areas with little, if any, conflict with the needs of local businesses. This is not rocket science.

    Comment by Robert Winters — May 26, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  4. I’d like to know why some residents in the city get the 4- or 5-foot “grace space” surrounding their driveways (curb cuts). Some have it, others don’t. A neighbor used that excuse to tow my car while I was on vacation, claiming her 90+ year-old father (who should not probably be driving at all) had trouble getting around it. Instead of calling me about it, away my car went. (Now she knows I have a long memory about some people).

    And what good does an appeal of a ticket do in the first place in Cambridge? Nearly every time the police just retort by saying “nope, he did it” and you end up paying the fine (and the tow company) anyway. Even if they grant your appeal, they won’t reverse the fines and tow charges until you pay them first (I wonder what happens to people who don’t have the money to get their car out of that lovely lot in a beautiful section of Somerville in the shadow of the McGrath/O’Brien?)

    While I’m at it, I’d rather see street sweeping every other month at the most. Pretty sure there have been significant kickbacks from the towing companies to keep that grift-n-graft going. They love it. And when holidays conflict with a regular street sweeping day, the City does not exactly always post the new date in time for residents to move their cars before the rescheduled sweep date. Did that not happen to you a few years back, Bob?

    Comment by Fred Baker — May 26, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  5. I wish Traffic and Parking would give a lot of more attention to signage – placement, size, and existence.

    When they added the new left turn lanes on Prospect street they painted lines and arrows but there are no signs. When there is traffic you can’t see them.

    The sign in the Harvard Square tunnel explaining the Kirkland St, Cambridge St and Broadway divide is not readable to many people until it is too late.

    There is the big Trowbridge St sign on the Library side of Broadway that contributes to people driving up the sidewalk. (They are going change the curbs there soon.) Trowbridge St hasn’t been there for many years.

    Sometimes the commemorative square signs are bigger and clearer than the real signs.

    Doesn’t anyone in that department ever drive around and evaluate the signage?

    Comment by John W Gintell — May 27, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  6. Cambridge parking is a total mess. Last summer I was towed from Main St. on a street cleaning day. Area 4 residents might remember that the park at the (former) intersection of Mass Ave. and Main St. was under construction (and, as an aside, had been under construction since my childhood) and the street signs had been taken down for sidewalk paving. I got a $130 tow plus a $50 ticket. When I petitioned the Traffic dept, they first ignored my letter, I sent a second one, and several months later I was informed that someone had gone to check on the signs and they were present. Well, I would hope that a few months after a sidewalk gets paved, the signs would be replaced, but that doesn’t really help me. If I could afford a lawyer I would have sued. The city needs to get their act together.

    Comment by Samuel Mehr — May 27, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

  7. Well done, Robert. We need people as yourself representing us and not these bunch of posturing councilors to be running our once “Nice” City. I was actually nearby when this incident took place, and I am very familiar with the She devil in question. She is an absolute disgrace to her job, and why she has not been fired beats me , but then why most of the councilors have not been run out of town also boggles the mind. They are very comfy in holding on to power. Term limits need to take effect to clean house. I have been a resident in Cambridge for 27 years and have had just a few tickets as I do not like giving booze money to the Councilors. Most of the parking wardens have some class and are just doing their jobs, and some are friends of mine, but not this classless Dragon. Is someone going to suggest moving the two legged vermin that resides in the square to the mayor’s or the councilors’ front gardens, or do we have the privilege of dealing with them on a daily basis? I am not talking about the Pigeons. Keep up the good work, Robert, as there are just a few of the good locals left. While I am at it, whats the deal with Pats tow, you know the ones that drive the wrong way and break every law in the book. Why are they allowed to do this, and why cash only. Smells fishy to me.

    Kevin.

    Comment by Kevin Glynn — June 2, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  8. Try living in close proximity to the Traffic building at 344 Broadway! After speaking with an employee of the department, we found out that traffic officers who issue parking fines end their shifts over an hour early. This means that if 15 officers leave an hour early from each of the two shifts, and each makes an average of $15.00 per hour, that costs the Cambridge taxpayers $450.00 per day. Now multiply that by a 5 day work week, $2,250.00 which comes to approximately $117,000.00 per year! That figure doesn’t include the amount of violations that are not being written because employees are not in their designated areas.
    I invite anyone reading this to head on down to 344 Broadway at 2:15PM from Monday through Friday and watch in amazement as officers begin to pull up in their vehicles and then start leaving their shifts early. They park on West St. Broadway, Inman Street, the parking lot in back of the building etc.
    Oh, and let’s not forget, if these employees are leaving early, that must mean that areas of the City are not being monitored properly.
    Susan Clippinger, we as taxpayers front your hefty salary. You work in the same building, are aware of the fact that employees are getting paid while not working but do nothing about it. On many occasions I’ve watched you talking to officers as they leave the area, up to one half hour early. Knowing this and allowing it to happen makes you just as responsible for stealing the taxpayer’s money. I think it’s time for some new blood.

    Jose. S

    Comment by Jose — June 6, 2010 @ 6:11 pm

  9. Susan Clippinger might as well be an absolute devoid email address and phone number. She clearly does not care about her constituents or the city of Cambridge.

    SUSAN – ANSWER US!!!!

    If only your position was electable. You are truly a shame to the city of Cambridge.

    Comment by George Ramos — June 18, 2010 @ 2:57 am

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