Brunswick ponders pay-to-park for downtown

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BRUNSWICK — The downtown business district’s future may include metered parking.

The implementation would be gradual and likely start with a pay-to-park kiosk at the Union Street long-term parking lot, according to Margo Knight, chairwoman of the Master Plan Implementation Committee.

The committee is set to formally present its plan for the Union Street lot at an upcoming Town Council meeting, but Knight previewed the issue for the council June 29.

Councilors scheduled an Aug. 7 public hearing on the anticipated proposal.

The kiosk on Union Street would be the first step in the town’s likely implementation of paid parking downtown. Knight said it comes on the heels of prior, no-cost efforts to relieve the area’s parking problems.

“There is a need to restrict the parking for what it’s intended for, which is our downtown businesses,” Councilor Jane Millett said, calling Union Street a good place to start the phased process.

The shortage of parking downtown has irked shoppers, diners, and business clients, Knight said.

Parking spots have been time-limited “for 30 years, maybe,” Knight explained, but in 2013 the committee “re-jiggered the times” along Maine Street, she said, for a mix of two-hour, three-hour, and a few 15-minute spots in an effort to create turnover.

The town also installed better signs around existing “hidden” parking lots – such as the Bank Street lot – to help drivers find alternative places to park instead of vying for places along Maine Street.

But now, four years later, “parking is really an issue again,” Knight told the council.

“We’ve been proud of our free parking downtown,” she said, but the committee reportedly believes businesses are losing costumers because parkers ignore the time limits.

With paid parking, however, the logic is that drivers will only leave their cars for as long as they need to, creating more turnover and increasing the number of shoppers and visitors to the downtown.

“Any time you pay for something, you value it more,” Knight said after her presentation.

The committee has yet to decide on a parking rate, she said, although they suggested $5 per day in the Union Street lot.

That lot, across the street from Town Hall and Brunswick Station, is reserved for bus and train passengers, and to use it, registration with the town is required.

Given that purpose, Councilor Sarah Brayman pointed out a potential “glitch” in the kiosk concept, which would require people to pay up front and therefore leave no flexibility for travelers who may want to shorten or extend their trips.

Knight accepted the feedback, and said her committee would continue to work on the proposal, and with the Police Department to determine enforcement and payment policies.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The Brunswick Town Council will consider whether to require bus and train passengers to pay to park at the the Union Street long-term parking lot. The move would be the town’s first step toward implementing paid parking in the downtown business district.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.