BY JULIA DOYLE '20
Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz proposed the hourly parking meter fee be raised from 75 cents to $1 per hour along Main Street downtown.
The proposal, which will be presented to the City Council, was based on the findings of Walker Parking Consultants in an April 2015 study. The study recommended that the rate on Main Street be raised from 75 cents an hour to $1, then increased annually by 25 cents to reach a fee of $1.50 per hour.
Narkewicz said in his letter to city council that the proposal will be the first of several regarding parking regulations. According to the 2015 survey, 23 percent of spaces are used by cars staying three or more hours,during peak daytime hours, which limits turnover for visitors. Narkewicz hopes to increase turnover on Main Street using this increase in rate.
An increased hourly cost not only means more money for the town, but may reduce the likelihood of people parking in the same spot for hours, limiting the amount of visitors.
Narkewicz told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that the main issue is that people are leaving Main Street because they cannot find parking, and believes that people are willing to pay for better parking spaces.
By increasing fees, people will be encouraged to park in lots and side streets, opening up parking on Main Street. The study claimed that only 15 percent of respondents cited cost as the primary factor, suggesting that shoppers would not be deterred by rising fees.
Sydney Blomstrom '20, who lives in Easthampton, said if it helped the community, she would be all for it, but suggested that for college students, this change would be an inconvenience. "I would have to hoard quarters to go for the day It'd be more of a hassle, especially if the fee rose to $1.50," she said.
This hassle may limit how frequently students visit downtown, or how long they stay.
Other students felt the fee could be a serious restriction for minimum wage workers in downtown Northampton, especially if fees continue to rise.
Eloise Arnot '20 expressed concern that should the fee continues to rise, it will be difficult for students to keep up. "[For] people who only make $10 an hour it'd cost more to park for the day than you would make in an hour at work," Arnot said.
Considering that the study suggested that ™many of the long stay vehicles [three or more hours] are likely employees,∫ parking for an 8-hour shift on main street could cost $8, nearly an hour's worth of work for minimum wage employees.
However, Arnot said that a positive aspect could be that increased fees would encourage students to use public transportation. PVTA buses and other forms of transportation are offered to students, which may reduce the issue of meter fees for students at the Five Colleges. However, there was still concern that an increase in fee could harm business, both by reducing how long people stay to shop, and costing more for employees. This concern largely stems from concerns that raising prices now will encourage the city council to continue raising fees each year. If the proposal passes, residents of Northampton and the Pioneer Valley will be anxious to see if this sets in motion a string of increasing fees for the next few years.