Amherst council throttles parking on Lincoln, Sunset and Elm near UMass

Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2022

AMHERST — Restrictions on parking on three town streets near the University of Massachusetts, including during the academic year when spaces are likely being used by commuters to campus, are being enacted by the Town Council, despite a similar proposal being rejected by councilors last fall.

Councilors voted 10-3 on Monday to implement the new parking rules on Lincoln and Sunset avenues and on Elm Street.

The changes will include no parking Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., from Sept. 1 to May 30, on the east side of Lincoln between McClellan and Amity streets, no parking on the east side of Sunset Avenue between Elm and Amity streets at all times, and no parking on one side of Elm at all times.

District 3 Councilor Jennifer Taub, who represents the residents affected, said the parking changes are needed due to the 824 new beds in a new UMass dormitory under construction at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue and the building of graduate student apartments to replace the demolished Lincoln Apartments. Those two projects combined will have only 100 parking spaces, and Lincoln and Sunset continue to be main thoroughfares to campus, Taub said.

“For this reason, it’s urgent we implement some level of parking management on the street,” Taub said. “The neighborhood is just asking for some relief.”

Taub contends that the parked vehicles are also a safety issue, with people leaving their driveways having challenges posed by the parked vehicles, many of which appear to be on the street primarily to avoid paying on-campus parking fees.

The need to be responsive to people who have been demanding the change for several years is reason to support the change, said District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen. She attributes the street parking to UMass lots being full.

“This goes away in the summertime, this goes away during breaks,” Schoen said.

District 5 Councilor Ana Devlin Gauthier said the restrictions will mean a loss of at least 26 free parking spaces that are close to downtown, but she supported the change so long as councilors revisit the matter at some point.

Others voting in favor included District 5’s Shalini Bahl-Milne, Council President Lynn Griesemer, District 1’s Michele Miller, District 3’s Dorothy Pam, District 4’s Pamela Rooney, and At Large Councilors Andy Steinberg and Ellisha Walker.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said it will take some time for the changes to be implemented, as signs and poles need to be purchased and then installed by the Department of Public Works.

Those who objected to the parking restrictions said there are no safety issues on those roads identified by the fire or police departments, even when events such as Homecoming and Family Weekend take place. In fact, said At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke, the changes might cause more problems, as drivers, even with speed humps on the road, increase their speeds.

“I don’t think we’ve tried everything we can,” Hanneke said, suggesting that converting the roads to one-way streets might be preferable.

Others opposed were District 2’s Pat DeAngelis and District 4’s Anika Lopes.

“To me the issue is parking, and what will the DPW and what will the town manager ask and demand of the DPW to do before we eliminate parking from 8 to 5 on a public street that I pay for?” DeAngelis said.

The Transportation Advisory Committee supported the proposal. Chairwoman Tracy Zafian told the council that Sunset is likely to be facing increasing pressure from parked vehicles and it’s not clear it would be safe for parking on both sides of that road.