Amherst eyes parking restrictions on newly populated cul-de-sac

  • Parking meters on South Pleasant Street in Amherst. JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2017

AMHERST — An increase in people living on Olympia Drive, which has caused the number of vehicles parked along the town road to spike over the past year, is prompting Amherst officials to consider enacting parking restrictions on the public way.

The Select Board Wednesday will consider making the changes on Olympia Drive, a cul-de-sac off East Pleasant Street that once only had a handful of residential duplexes and sororities, fraternities and other buildings associated with the University of Massachusetts, as well as overflow parking lots used by UMass students.

Last fall, though, the 75-unit, 236-bed apartment complex Olympia Place, which has no on-site parking, opened, just two years after the 42-unit Olympia Oaks affordable housing project was constructed at one end of the street.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring said in an email that when the town accepted the street, no parking rules were in place.

“When the new dorm opened they quickly realized there was no parking restrictions on the street and the residents parked in such a way as to block buses, fire (vehicles) and other residents from accessing the area,” Mooring said.

Town Engineer Jason Skeels, in a memo to the Select Board, outlined three options. The first and second option would allow either free or metered parking in designated areas along the street, while the third option would designate the length of the road no parking.

Under the allowed parking options, 33 parallel spaces would be created.

In addition to making changes on Olympia, the board could implement three recommendations from the Downtown Parking Working Group, deferred from earlier in the summer. The changes are aimed at facilitating regular turnover of spaces, and to make it easier for visitors to find parking.

The recommendations expected to be taken up include standardizing the maximum length of time at meters to four hours, except in the parking lot between North Pleasant and North Prospect streets, where an eight-hour limit would remain; increasing parking tickets from $10 to $15; and changing the overnight winter parking ban from one that runs from 2 to 6 a.m. daily, Dec. 1 to April 1, to a ban that would only be in effect during snow emergencies.

But the most discussed changes, increasing the cost of parking in spaces closest to downtown using so-called demand-based pricing, and extending enforcement from 6 to 8 p.m. at all spaces, are not on the motion sheet. Earlier, the working group dropped a recommendation that would have increased the fee for a downtown parking permit from $25 to $200.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.