New downtown parking rules in Northampton kick in

  • Nancy Tahir and Gustavo arroyo pay for parking on Main Street Northampton Friday Jan. 13, 2023. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 3/17/2023 4:36:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s new parking rules have officially taken effect, bringing a significant change to how paid parking works throughout much of its downtown.

The City Council approved an ordinance in January that adjusts the time of the parking fees at on- and off-street parking meters from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., two hours later than the previous 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. time frame. The rules are not in effect on Sundays.

The new rule, which began last Monday, also does away with previously imposed time limits of two hours in downtown areas, but instead increases the rates to discourage long-term parking in those areas. Fees for parking along Main Street and Crafts Avenue, for example, will be $1.50 an hour, or 50 cents higher than current rates, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The fee goes up to $2 an hour between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m.

Other popular downtown parking areas, such as King Street, Center Street, Pearl Street and Bridge Street, are also increasing fees by 50 cents an hour. These fees, as with those for parking on Main Street and Crafts Avenue, can be paid in smaller increments than an hour for shorter stays.

At Thursday’s council meeting, Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra said the plan was currently in a “soft rollout” phase, with violators of the new rules receiving only in warnings. Full enforcement begins on March 27.

“Northampton has implemented long-overdue reforms to the parking system downtown,” Sciarra said. “The ParkMobile app will reflect the new rules and can guide users to using the system.”

The move to change the parking times and abolish the two-hour limit comes from a study by Northampton-based engineering consultant Stantec. The study was presented to the city last June, although the council held off on taking a vote on the ordinance until the winter.

The study, titled “The Shifting Role of Parking in Downtowns,” included a review of the parking price structure downtown and recommendations for a better parking management and pricing system.

Parking at the E. John Gare Garage downtown will remain accessible for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the first hour free. Permit parking, however, will rise to $110 a month from the current $90.

Rates on Saturdays will be $2 an hour from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In an advisory sent out by the mayor’s office, Sciarra said the new changes would make it easier for those visiting downtown to quickly find parking near where they want to go.

“Even with all the changes, the bottom line is that things are simpler,” she wrote in the advisory. “There is no more worrying about fitting all your errands in under the two-hour time limit. Pay for as much time as you need in any location.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at
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