The issue of parking in downtown Lowell is getting some attention. It was discussed at last week’s economic development subcommittee and downtown resident Corey Sciuto posted a letter he sent to councilors on the issue on his own blog. This morning I found a lengthy comment from a regular reader named Brian on my economic development subcommittee post. Brian caught a replay of that meeting and shared his thoughts on what took place. Rather than leave it as a comment to a week-old blog post, I have reposted Brian’s comment below in its entirety since this is an ongoing issue.
I finally had a chance to watch this meeting on LTC.
It’s amazing how much misinformation is out there. Many things stuck out to me. There was a disconnect between C Kennedy and Mr Troupe. C Kennedy mentioned Burlington VT offers 2 hours free parking in the central business district. Mr Troupe said he wasn’t aware of such practices and it’s unanimous within parking associations that paid meters helps businesses by creating parking turnover in front of stores/restaurants.
Why didn’t C Kennedy clarify to Mr Troupe that parking in Burlington VT is ONLY free for 2 hours in the GARAGES? Parking on-street at meters in Burlington VT is enforced Mon-Sat 8am-6pm and is consistent with the parking association Mr Troupe belongs to.
C Kennedy then says we shouldn’t ticket cars who are there for “short term, in and out” business on the first pass. These are the spots that need THE MOST ENFORCEMENT! If there isn’t turnover at those spots people are going to keep driving until they find an open spot somewhere else, if downtown at all, and probably not want to walk back to the originally intended destination. This would also create a negative impression in the drivers mind and reinforces that parking in downtown sucks thus reducing the chance of a return visit.
Karen Bell of The Club then took to the podium and had A LOT to say. She said hiring new personnel would cost more than the 30k in revenue the city gets from meters from 4-6pm and weekends because of their salaries, vacation, and benefits. What she isn’t factoring in is most people know not to feed the meters after 4pm so 30k is artificially low. If meter enforcement actually went till 6pm and all day Saturday we’d collect a lot more than 30k AND increase The Clubs membership.
She spoke to 50 businesses and 300 residents who signed a petition saying they don’t want more enforcement. I’m not surprised by the residents. Who wants to park in a garage all weekend when you can park your car in front of Majors from Friday at 4pm till Monday morning at 9am. I am surprised so many businesses would sign the petition. All you have to do is a little online research and see what other successful cities are doing and try and mimic that. Is it possible they are all wrong and we’re right? Yes, but I doubt it.
She then said the restaurants have “given up on the lunch crowd anyway” so downtown enforcement is *okay* and that Chantilly place left the city because of parking so you *do need* parking enforcement. So what is it Karen? What is the difference between daytime students, lawyers, defendants, and employees cars and nighttime residents, employees, and visitors cars? Nothing! Why do people get a free ride when restaurants/gyms need those open spots the most?
Karen said people fight the perception of “am I going to get a ticket if I have to go to Lowell for a meal”. That’s crap. People just know there won’t be any open on-street spots in downtown Lowell on a Thurs, Fri, or Sat night. And people feel like they’re getting ripped off by parking in the garage when “everyone else” is parking for free.
She then goes on to say we certainly don’t need parking enforcement on Sat when people are going to the malls, Andover, Nashua, or Haverhill where they DON’T HAVE METERS.
This is FALSE. I’ve paid for metered parking at Andover’s lot in the heart of downtown.
Nashua has meter enforcement from Mon-Sat 9-7pm at its busiest areas but has free parking in the garages all day Saturday.
Haverhill enforces metered parking from 3-8pm Mon-Friday but does allow free parking on Sat so in that regard they are as misguided as Lowell.
Lawrence enforces metered parking Mon-Sat 9:30-6pm but allows free 2 hour parking in some garages.
The only way downtown can compete with the malls, route 38′s, and drum hills is to offer FREE parking in the garages for the first 60-90 minutes AND enforce metered parking till at least 8pm(most people go out to eat or work out between 4-8pm) and ALL DAY Saturday. Induce demand by offering limited free parking where people don’t want to park and properly enforce the most sought after spaces.
The only debate should be how long and/or when to offer free parking in the garages. We need to move the conversation if downtown Lowell is to thrive once again.