He who parks by the map, pays by the map

I while ago I heard a rumor that there was a border dispute between Cambridge and Somerville. I wasn't able to get any confirmation, so I put it out of my mind. But now it appears that I might have fallen right into it. I know what you're thinking. This is just the sort of thing that could happen only to me. Perhaps.

As you may know, I live in Central Square, Cambridge, and work in Davis Square, Somerville. My car is registered and permitted to park in Cambridge. I don't normally drive to work, but sometimes if I have to drive somewhere after work, it makes sense to drive there and then hop in my car directly after work. So I decided to try and optimize things by finding the point in Cambridge closest to my office in Somerville, and parking there free. It was surprisingly difficult to find an authoritative map of the border, but I eventually dug up this street cleaning zone map on the Cambridge DPW web site.  For what it's worth, the Somerville web site had zero helpful information.

Based on this, I decided that parking on the East side of Russell street near the corner of Elm would be the optimal location, just inside the Cambridge line, but about as close to Davis square as possible. In the past, I had parked lower down Russell street where both sides are clearly Cambridge. Today I got a spot in front of 44 Russell street, a couple of houses from the corner.

Officer Soares saw it differently.

For $20 I might have sucked it up, but for $40, I decided to stand by my city's DPW map and look into this. I visited the Cambridge police station near my home and consulted the large map on the wall. It seemed to match the street sweeping map. An officer asked me what I was doing, and I explained the situation. He picked up a phone, called some number and asked, "44 Russell street, is that us or Somerville?" and told me that it was in fact a Cambridge address. He did note that it was possible that the city line existed between the house and the curb, but could not confirm one way or the other. One could argue that the DPW map above shows that, but I assumed it was sloppy illustration.  That's what happens when you assume, but it still sounds like reasonable doubt to me.

The back of the ticket states, "This violation may also be appealed and adjudicated by mail if supporting documentation is mailed within 21 days of issuance." I got home and began to assemble my case. I checked a source perhaps even more respected than the police. I searched "44 Russell Street, Cambridge, MA" and got a nice map. Just to make sure, I then tried "44 Russell Street, Somerville, MA" and look what I got:

Very interesting. I think I can say with certainty that #44 is in Cambridge. Now I have to go back to the scene and double check the signs to see if there are any clues to the ownership of the street itself. So far, I haven't been able to see any "permit parking only" signs that say Cambridge or Somerville on them.

No doubt, this story is to be continued...

10 Responses

  1. Charlie D.
    Using the MassGIS data viewer (Oliver), it looks like the city line goes through the houses on the east side of Russell St, making most of Russell St in Somerville. To see for yourself, go here: http://maps.massgis.state.ma.us/massgis_viewer/index.htm Click on the MassGIS data viewer link in the upper left. If you zoom in and superimpose the town boundaries on the ortho images, you'll see exactly where the boundaries lie.
  2. Ron Newman
    Hi. I live a few blocks from there, at Day and Orchard streets. If you look carefully at the permit parkng signs, you'll see that Somerville and Cambridge signs look somewhat different. The section of Russell Street that you parked on is in Somerville, despite the fact that the houses on the east side of it are in Cambridge. The city line actually runs through the front yards.
  3. Todd
    You might also take some pictures of the area where your car was parked. If there are no signs on the block that say Somerville permit parking, you should be in the clear for that reason alone.
  4. Rob
    I live on a street off Teele Sq that splits halfway between Camrbridge and Somerville. I'm a Somerville resident but admittedly sometimes park on the Cambridge side when I can't find any spots within 6 houses of me or so. Luckily I haven't gotten bagged yet. Best of luck to you. At minimum, sounds like the signage where you were needs to be a little more explicit.
  5. Just a cursory glance at that DPW told me that both sides of Russell St. are in Somerville until halfway between Orchard and Mass. Ave., at which point both sides are in Cambridge. The line separating the white and the yellow is clearly set back from the east side of Russell. Granted, this is a clearly stupid demarcation. I'd guess that Cambridge doesn't care to pay for services/repairs on that street.
  6. kayleigh
    by this logic, a person living at 44 Russell Street could not legally park in front of his own house. absurd.
  7. sammywhite
    Doesn't look like you need any more confirmation, but there's a plan on record at the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds for the property at 48 Russell. The dividing line goes right through their front yard. You can find it here: www.masslandrecords.com choose South Middlesex/pick Document Search tab/select Plans button/enter Book 1999 Page 1145 this should return 1 result. select it and then hit "Quick Document Viewer" in the lower left.
  8. Ron Newman
    The two cities have some special arrangement for people who live on Russell Street, where they get a resident parking permit from each city, but one of them is labelled "Russell Street only".
  9. Please keep us updated! Fascinating - it couldn't happen to a better duck?! If that makes any sense.
  10. I tried to fight a ticket I got on Comm. Ave. They took the meters away and put up signs that said no parking, but all had duck tape on them with a sharpie that said 7am-4pm. I parked after 4pm, but still got a ticket. I took pictures of the sign, my ticket was after 5pm, but they didn't throw it out. Even with hand made signs, which you'd think they would have replaced, but they are back again, and hand written again. Crazy!
  11. [...] have kept it up with a nice mix of parking news.  too bad they weren’t around when I did unsuccessful battle with lousy parking maps and poor signage at the Cambridge-Somerville neutral zon....  They describe Park and Pray thusly: Chronicling the adventures of urban street parking, Park and [...]

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