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 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.


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

  • Chew H Bird

    Brunswick, in its infinite wisdom, removed parking spots from Maine Street and installed speed bump crosswalks… If Brunswick actually enforced their existing parking signs they could probably generate more revenue, (such as the free parking lot behind the Tedford administration offices where there always seem to be vehicles parked for weeks or months at a time…

  • poppypapa

    The protagonist cited in this article is a devotee of “place-making,” and the myriad consultants from big city America that deluge us with great theories of magical benefits from all sorts of “planned changes.” This is how we got the back in parking spots that had to be changed out once folks and business owners had to live with them.

    And the speed bump crosswalks that cost several downtown parking spots, and didn’t stop the jay-walking across Maine Street one bit.

    Not to mention the “exponential economic benefits” (as one foamer stated) of Downeaster passenger rail service, whose primary effect is to suck discretionary dollars from Brunswick to points south, where big city attractions and shopping beckon. And left Brunswick no better off economically.

    You may remember the “open classrooms” fiasco brought to us by the nationally renowned education consultants in the 70s, which were promptly embraced by the gullible school boards, architects, and administrators of the era. Mt. Ararat High School and Jordan Acres Elementary are our two local examples. The latter was allowed to fail structurally so it could be replaced before its time, and you can bet the new High School in Topsham will not repeat that mistake.

    When you are a planner at heart, everything looks like something that needs to be replanned. And if you make your living at it, especially as a consultant, you need to keep inventing new methods and approaches so you can keep selling and working.

    Combine this all with an insatiable desire for more spending on everything you can think of, and any suggestion on how to increase available municipal funds can always be characterized as for our own good. Yet no one has the time or inclination to figure out why our schools now cost twice as much per student enrolled than they did not much more than a decade ago, with no visible signs of improved results for the money.

    I’m expecting a pay per snow event for town plowing before you know it.

    This is the “administrative state” brought down to the municipal level.

    And I can’t wait to see the windfall increase in revenue that results from the reval. Based on numerous examples else where, it’s a slam dunk. At the same time elected employees and staff brag about “lowering our tax rate in a big way, to make us more competitive.”

    By the way, if you think paid parking and meters will improve availability of parking spots, you haven’t been trying to do business in Portland.

  • David M. Perry

    One thing that deters me from spending more time in Portland is the high cost of parking. Brunswick has a pleasant small-town feeling about it and the presence of the many unique shops make it a pleasure to shop there. Charging for parking alters that feeling. I have never had difficulty finding parking in Brunswick and would resent having to pay for it. It would make me think twice about the many casual visits I make to Brunswick just to browse or pick up the occasional gourmet treat; I’d reserve my trips only to the essential ones.

    • tommy2me

      I believe that long term parking should be at a $2.00 per day rate. This will allow for travelers to plan and stay longer at there destinations. Years ago we took the Concord bus to the Logan international terminal and parked my car at the portland transportation terminal. I spent 3 weeks touring Scotland. The parking rate was $2 per day. Lets keep the rates fare for travelers.
      I recommend that if paid parking is implemented, that all funds be directed
      to a special account for a parking garage.

  • Ted Markow

    This is a solution looking for a problem.

    There have been several traffic “studies” done of Maine Street and its abutters – what has come of them? A couple of speed bumps (which do slow traffic but don’t do anything for parking) but no real “solutions.” Could that be because there really are no real problems?

    Brunswick doesn’t need paid parking or meters or parking tickets. We have more traffic during summer and that’s the way it should be. Let’s not implement a change due to seasonal differences.

    And, by the way, where exactly do all the people who park for free go now? To eat, shop, and play in Brunswick – all to the town’s benefit. Why do we want to rush people along and create ill-will? Restaurants that rush me out the door do not see me coming back.

    This is Brunswick, a gem of a town. Let’s not turn it into Pottersville.