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Salem City Council: Parking plan needs tweaking

Posted by Ryan Mooney  September 28, 2012 11:48 AM

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The comprehensive plan that was put in place on July 1 in an attempt to alleviate some of the parking nightmares throughout Salem is nearing the end of its 90-day trial period, and the city council is already looking to make changes.

The council voted, 9-1, on Thursday night to repeal the monthly parking zone created on Congress Street as part of the plan, and to have the Committee on Ordinances, Licenses and Legal Affairs discuss doing the same for Gedney Street, Norman Street, Dodge Street, and Holyoke Square.

Councilor-at-large Tom Furey represented the only dissenting vote, and Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey was absent.

Councilors were concerned that not enough people are opting to purchase the $25 monthly pass to park on the bridge on Congress Street with free parking a short walk away in the Point Neighborhood, and metered parking in the other direction at the South Harbor Garage on the corner of Congress and New Derby Street.

The result, according to supporters, is only a handful of cars parking on the bridge at any given time, leaving the rest of the zone unusable and wasted parking space.

"I probably have four or five days worth of pictures of two, three, four cars parked on that bridge that probably holds 30 cars," Councilor-at-large Arthur Sargent said.

Councilor Bob McCarthy, who represents Ward 1, which the area in question falls into, said he has seen the monthly pass fail with his own eyes, and has also received feedback from people in the area who share the same concerns.

"If you drove down the street today, as I did, there's approximately 20 spots open on the street," McCarthy said. "No one in that area bought into the zone...we've created this zone and the people who used to park there now are ending up on Ward Street and Peabody Street...people aren't willing to pay the $25 to park on Congress Street.

"Basically, it's not working."

Other monthly zones created in the city, such as the one created at the Riley Plaza lot across the street from the post office, have not experienced the same issue, and there was a certain sense of urgency to specifically amend the Congress Street situation with Halloween right around the corner.

"We all know what's coming next month, and to have 20 to 30 parking spaces to be unavailable for anyone to park because for the month of October we only sold two zone passes...I think that would be a big mistake," McCarthy said.

Also receiving first passage by a vote of 8-2, meaning it will have to pass a vote again to take effect, is the reduction of the maximum time limit for meters on one side of lower Lafayette Street - from Harbor Street to New Derby Street - from four hours to two hours. The parking plan had created uniformity throughout the city by limiting all meters to four hours.

The problem there lies with retail businesses that rely on quick space turnover for customer convenience. It is not the only area in which four-hour meters are causing problems, but being so close to downtown tends to turn that part of the road into a long-term parking option for some people and the hope is to change that.

"It's really a retail oriented block," Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel said.

Some councilors also briefly expressed a desire to scale back the hours of the meters. Currently meters throughout the city are in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, but only remained on until 5 p.m. before the implementation of the new parking plan. The time suggested in discussion was 6 p.m.

But most councilors were weary of trying to get into the details of specific areas throughout the city and nitpick too much at a comprehensive plan that took over two years to design, and that they haven't yet seen comprehensive data for.

"I don't think anybody in this room has the intention to start to nitpick or tear the parking plan apart," McCarthy said.

"We're trying desperately not to interfere with the trial period of the overall plan," Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski said. "However there are component pieces of this that are just obviously not working."

Ryan Mooney can be reached at globe.mooney@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.

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