Parking measures said to be working

Oct 8, 2019 by

Published in the October 8, 2019 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — Most everyone agreed with Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio’s assessment that the increased parking enforcement, especially in the downtown business district, has been an overall success.

“You are seeing spaces open for customers,” he observed at last night’s Town Council meeting. “You can drive downtown at noon and find parking.” Maio noted that even some merchants who were initially resistant to the changes in parking time limits and the stepped-up enforcement have admitted to him that it is working.

In July 1, most downtown parking time limits were increased from one hour to two hours. Some longer term (four-hour) and merchant parking areas were also designated. Merchants were given to opportunity to purchase stickers that would allow them to park all day in designated areas on the outskirts of the downtown in an effort to reduce the practice of downtown employees parking for long periods in front of their businesses, taking spaces away from potential customers.

In addition, two part-time parking attendants were hired last summer to increase enforcement of the parking time limits. The Police Department handled parking enforcement to the extent possible up until recently. But Maio had some hard numbers to show the recent difference in enforcement since the two dedicated parking enforcement attendants began working.

In August and September of 2018, the total number of parking tickets issued by the Police Department was 279, Maio said. But with the two parking enforcement attendants hired over the summer, the total number of tickets for August-September of 2019 period was 855, an increase of 576 or about 200 percent. A very high percentage of those tickets were issued in the downtown area (Main and Albion streets), Maio said.

“This was never about the money,” Maio stressed. “It was about changing behavior and helping downtown businesses.”

Still, since the enforcement program was sold as revenue neutral, Maio did provide figures for the amount of money that has come in as a result to the program. The revenue collected in parking fines nearly doubled from July-August 2018 to July-August 2019, Maio said, from $6,360 to $12,130. In addition, since parking enforcement was increased, the town has sold 68 residential parking passes and 246 merchant parking passes for a total of of $3,140.

Of those totals, Maio said that it would be appropriate to attribute $8,910 in new revenue as a direct result of the increased enforcement. He said that if the two-month snapshot holds up over a full year, parking enforcement will be close to revenue neutral. He did admit that the number of tickets could decrease as people continue to adapt and compliance increases.

Maio admitted that enforcement is a tough job and some downtown merchants and employees have not been happy about getting tickets or having to walk a short distance from their cars to their workplaces. But, he added, “Most people are pretty reasonable.”

Not everyone was on board with the program, however. One Greenwood business owner said there simply aren’t enough designated merchant/long-term parking areas in Greenwood for her employees and other businesses that need them.

Lauren Rotondo, owner of First Energy Heating at 924 Main St., told the Town Council that she purchased six merchant parking passes for her employees, but the designated merchant spaces that have been set aside are always full. She said that she and her employees have gotten numerous tickets. She also claimed that one of the parking attendants in particular was unreasonable.

She said that the town has offered no suggestions as to where she and her employees can park all day without getting ticketed. “We need some clarification,” she said.

Town Council Chairman Edward Dombroski pointed out that parking time limits are not new and in fact have been doubled from one to two hours. He admitted that there were still some issues in Greenwood, noting that tweaks can be made to improve things.

“We are looking to make more merchant spots,” he said. He also noted that there was more signage yet to go up in Greenwood.

Maio said that part of the problem in Greenwood is with commuters parking on nearby side streets like Oak Street to avoid the paid commuter parking on Main Street. But, he added, he still sees more parking now when he drives through Greenwood than he did before.

Dombroski noted that there are a lot of parking spaces on Main Street across from the Greenwood School that are less than a block from Greenwood Plaza.

Town Councilor Jonathan Chines questioned whether the new program would indeed be revenue neutral if the number of tickets issued goes down with increased compliance.

Dombroski said that it would be necessary to let things play out for a full year, but maintained that even if the program comes up a little short, “There’s value in solving this problem.”

Maio commended the Town Council for addressing the parking problem in an effective way.

“This has been a long-time issue and this has made a difference for the businesses,” he said.

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