The Odd Policy of Even

After much debate, the City of Somerville announced a change in policy earlier this week: snow emergency parking will now alternate sides of the street.

For those of you who don’t live in snow-laden cities, there is a general principal of winter snow removal that it is particularly hard to do when there are parked cars in the way. For that reason, municipalities typically restrict parking during winter storms.

Different communities have different strategies, but in Somerville, it has always been the rule that during a snow emergency you can only park on the odd side of the street.

The result of this, from an even-side resident’s perspective, is that snow plows favor the even side of the street and push more snow onto even-side sidewalks.

In a normal year, this is annoying. When you get a record breaking 110.6 inches of snow, it is a problem.

The real problem, you see, with snow plows, is that they have a remarkable ability to destroy hours worth of labor in mere minutes. I myself live on a corner – so I’m on the even side of one street and the odd side of another.

On the even side it is a constant battle – you go out and shovel, the plow snows you back in. You go out and shovel, the plow snows you back in. While the struggle itself might be enough to fill a man’s heart, it’s also incredibly frustrating.

And, it makes me feel like I should leave a note for passing pedestrians: sorry, I’m trying to do my civic duty, but the snow plow keeps ruining it. Apologies in advance if you come through at an un-shoveled time.

Last year, there was great tumult around the odd-only snow policy. Every time the City of Somerville posted an announcement about a new winter storm, there was a flurry of Facebook comments: Why can’t we alternate the ban?

This is, I believe, a fairly common practice among municipalities. If the winter starts in an odd year, snow parking is odd only. If the winter starts in an even year, snow parking is even only.

This is, arguably, more fair. A point that was raised many times by many citizens over many years, but perhaps most vociferously last year.

So it was exciting too see Mayor Joe Curtatone announce:

After careful review, and with significant community feedback, we have determined that the best and most logical next step in our ongoing efforts to provide excellent snow removal operations in Somerville is to alleviate some of the traditional hardships for residents living on the even side of the street where snow and ice buildup from plowing operations.

Nice work, City of Somerville.

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