Nora Turriago: Let’s meet in Northampton to discuss Amherst’s parking problems

  • Parking meters on South Pleasant Street in Amherst. gazette file photo/JERREY ROBERTS

Friday, May 03, 2019

The town of Amherst has made a name for itself as an intellectual college town, where progressive beliefs are matched only by residents’ fondness for Birkenstocks and organic eateries.

Yet there is a thorn — a persistent ache in the underbelly of our beloved town — that threatens to undermine Amherst, as we know it. The culprit? Parking.

It has become increasingly difficult to enjoy the town’s offerings simply because of the headache that is parking. There are parking signs with contradictory information, yes, and let’s not forget the logistical nightmare that is making sure there are enough quarters to last a good meal. However, I am most annoyed and baffled by the fact that parking is free only after 8 p.m. Really?

These rules aren’t just ridiculous. They are also a public relations nightmare. The parking rules and regulations have worked to hold hostage the town of Amherst. As a result, Amherst has become inaccessible and unwelcoming, a place where making money is more important than inviting residents to enjoy their downtown.

It must be asked: is this sacrifice worth it? In my determination to avoid this parking nightmare, I now drive to Northampton, where — let us shout it from the rooftops — parking is free after 6 p.m.

And also, while I have your attention, let’s make Amherst Cinema parking free for patrons — the movie ticket can include parking. Another idea: free parking one day during the week, as an invitation to the Amherst community to visit and support the local shops and restaurants.

Ultimately, the town of Amherst must come up with more creative ways of making money than through parking enforcement, which only serves to isolate residents from the very town in which they live. Does anyone want to share potential solutions for improving parking downtown? Let’s all meet in Northampton to discuss.

Nora Turriago