Elisa Campbell: Questions need for evening parking charges in downtown Amherst

Sunday, September 10, 2017
Questions evening parking charges

Twenty and more years ago when I was on the Amherst Select Board and then a member of the Parking Garage Building Committee, it was clear that we had two major issues for parking in downtown Amherst: Free parking would be swamped by people wanting to avoid paying parking fees on the campuses (especially at UMass), and competition to our businesses from businesses in nearby places that could offer free parking.

So we did have to charge for parking at least during “office hours.” We also wanted the parking system to pay for itself, rather than be subsidized by other funds (for example, real estate taxes). Those issues have not gone away or changed significantly.

What has changed is we have far more restaurants in town, and Amherst Cinema, where people usually want to stay more than two hours, much of those hours after 5 p.m. We have very few places to “run errands” — for them we need some short-term parking (although in many cases, such as Town Hall, Hastings and Amherst Books) the places are open before 9 a.m.

Given all this, I don’t understand the reasoning behind the idea of charging for parking in downtown between 6 and 8 p.m. It seems to me those are exactly the hours when we want to encourage people to come downtown and support local businesses.

I do understand the need to pay for the parking system – is that the reason for the proposed change? If so, I’m concerned that those charges will not work because fewer people will choose to come downtown. That doesn’t help anyone.

Elisa Campbell