March 4, 2015

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Amherst town officials to discuss downtown parking changes

Samantha Webber/Collegian File Photo

Officials in Amherst are discussing ways to change the current parking system in the downtown area in hopes of easing congestion.

The downtown area currently features a number of metered spaces that require drivers to pay as they park. Town officials are looking to convert many of these spaces to 15-minute temporary spaces or to ones that require a permit.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, said 15-minute spaces “help businesses that have customers who are popping in and popping out” and would create more customer turnover than the current two-hour spaces.

Right now, downtown Amherst has four 15-minute spaces – one in front of Bruegger’s Bagels, one by Fresh Side, one by Paradise of India, and one by Stackers Pub.

More 15-minute spaces might also be installed in front of Rao’s Coffee after the Unitarian Church – which is next door to the Rao’s – expands into its own parking lot over the summer.

Other alterations are required on Gaylord Street, where neighbors are concerned with the overcrowding of cars.

Krogh-Grabbe said the street was “getting clogged with people,” and parking was becoming unsafe. Town center permits for individuals who work or live in the area will most likely be issued, Town Manager John Musante said.

On Spring Street, metered spaces will probably be changed to permit spaces during the week and metered spaces during nights and weekends, Musante said. The spaces were originally permit-only before the Lord Jeffery Inn was renovated in 2011.

Krogh-Grabbe said these spaces in particular “were getting a lot of use when they were permit spaces and have not been getting used since they were metered.”

He also said there could also be an increase of reserved spaces for businesses or tenants on the lower level of the Boltwood Garage.

“More reserved spaces are needed,” Krogh-Grabbe said of the parking garage. “It’s not an adequate number.”

The garage, once a parking lot, was built to provide more spaces for the area. Its construction took nine years and the garage provides two levels of public parking on a pay-per-space basis, including some reserved spaces on the lower level that cost $750 a year.

Musante is also in the process of identifying and designating spaces for taxi stands. There are currently a few stands next to the town common.

Musante was expected to meet with the Business Improvement District this week to discuss the changes before going to the Select Board with the proposal. He said a public hearing to address the “package of recommendations” could most likely occur in February.

Mary Reines can be reached at mreines@student.umass.edu.

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