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Editorial: Get new garage into use

We’re glad a Northampton official feels an urgency in getting the new parking garage between Center and Gothic streets open to the public in the evenings, for that is what people who backed a Proposition 2½ tax override to pay for a new police station believed was the plan all along.

Though construction of the garage was finished in early April, the part of the new building intended for public use in evenings has not yet been accessible. David Pomerantz, who directs the city’s Central Services Department, told Gazette reporter Chad Cain that he hopes the garage can be open by this summer.

This would be a good time for city government to show it has citizens’ convenience in mind by expediting the bureaucracy and getting the garage open by the start of summer.

Why not? We suggest the city’s Parking Committee skip the rigmarole and make the 55 spaces on the garage’s lower level available as soon as possible. The city has long studied how people in Northampton use parking garages through its own operation of the Gare garage off Hampton Avenue. That system works and is popular, particularly the policy of making the first hour of parking free.

We believe that added nighttime parking options on the north side of Main Street will be a great advantage to the city and its visitors, particularly for people visiting the Iron Horse Music Hall and the Calvin Theatre or heading to the city’s restaurants.

Much of the new garage is already spoken for, days and nights. The top level, with 66 parking spaces, is the preserve of the Northampton Police Department. No public parking is planned on that floor.

And during the day, use of the lower level is dedicated to courthouse staff and employees of the Hampshire Council of Governments, which is based upstairs in the old courthouse at the corner of King and Main streets. The garage sits on land made available by the courthouse through a 99-year lease in exchange for parking rights during the day.

Still, that leaves a lot of parking spaces available between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Getting the garage open has already reduced some parking congestion because police and court employees had special access to the James House lot on Gothic Street during construction of the new police station. With construction over, metered parking spaces are back in use on Center Street. Five metered spaces on Gothic that are reserved for use by police personnel visiting the court on official business also will be available to the public after 5 p.m.

Public money went into building this new temple of parking and the public deserves to have the spaces made available to alleviate shortages of on-street parking.

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