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Amherst to raise fines on the already scarce parking

(Amelia Shaw / Daily Collegian)

As the Town of Amherst readies to change some of the rules regarding parking in the downtown area, to some community members, it seems that the only real change needed is an increase of parking spots.

On Oct. 2, the town of Amherst will increase the parking ticket rates from $10 to $15 and raise the hourly rate from 50 cents to $1.

The town foresees two potential benefits as a result of this increase: one, the increase in ticket rates will encourage people to pay for the exact time that they want to stay and not take any chances; two, it will help get people in and out of spots faster, clearing up parking for the rest of the town.

“There is an awareness that as hourly rates go up, the penalty for not buying hourly time also needs to go up,” Claire McGinnis, the Amherst town clerk, said. “It needs to still be more expensive to not follow the rules.”

McGinnis’ reasoning is that it would not make sense if the hourly rate price went up without the ticket prices also increasing. According to her, people would not pay for the meter or pay station, because the chance of not paying and then getting a ticket would only be two dollars more than just parking for an entire day.

One problem that has arisen in Amherst due to such limited parking spots in the center of town is the ability for sit-down restaurants to receive big crowds.

“The stigma that’s in Amherst is that there is a shortage of parking,” Rabib Rafiq, the owner of Bistro 63, said. “I’ve lived here for almost seven years and [the parking shortage] been slowly increasing.”

Currently, there are 300 parking spots in Downtown Amherst. Some, like Rafiq, argue that it is not nearly enough to support the amount of business that is in the town.

“People are not willing to drive down the road and park in the Bank of America parking lot and walk up to town, as it is simply too far,” Rafiq said.

According to Rafiq, this is a big concern when trying to fill up the tables at a restaurant and keep the turn-around at a good pace.

This differs from Northampton where there is a large parking garage.

Jennifer LaFountain, an assistant collector in the Amherst treasurer/collectors office responsible for reviewing all town appeals, usually receives 12 appeals per week, most of these tickets coming from meter violations. When asked what she would do if she could change anything related to parking, she said that she would add “more spots in general.”

Jordan Freedman can be reached at jafreedman@umass.edu.

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