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Pittsfield Installing Downtown Parking Meters Next Month

Jim Levulis

Starting next month the city of Pittsfield will begin installing parking meters in heavily-trafficked areas of downtown.Pittsfield has 45 solar-powered, multi-space meters that it plans to install throughout downtown including on North and South Streets and near City Hall, Berkshire Medical Center and The Common. Installation is expected to start in mid-to-late November. The city’s Director of Administrative Services Roberta McCulloch-Dews says the parking management plan came about as a condition of a 2013 state grant for repairs to the city’s McKay Street parking garage.

“It positions us to have a long-term sustainability plan to address maintenance, operations and improvements of the city’s parking facilities,” McCulloch-Dews said. “The meters help to ensure the availability of parking in the most critical areas of downtown.”

Street-parking from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday will be $1 an hour. Parking in the Columbus Avenue parking garage and surface lots will cost 50 cents an hour from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. The first 30 minutes in all metered areas is free so if you pay $1 for on-street parking you get one and half hours. There is no metered parking on weekends. The city has provided a link to a video explaining how to use the pay by plate meters. Users enter their license plate number and can pay with coins or credit and debit cards.

“Press the green button and your receipt will print out,” the video states. “Take your receipt for your own records. There is no need to display it in your vehicle. Your license plate information is communicated to parking enforcement officers wirelessly.”

The city says the system also reduces the time parking control officers spend patrolling areas from an hour to 10 minutes. The city council approved spending $500,000 for the meters and their installation. McCulloch-Dews says the city projects operating the parking plan will cost about $1 million a year. She says that should be covered by meter revenues, parking permit fees and fine collections. The city increased its parking fines in 2015. McCulloch-Dews says the parking plan has the support of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. which represents about 210 businesses and groups.

“Part of this whole process was gathering input from people in the community,” McCulloch-Dews said. “So when this first started people were very receptive to this idea of having this parking plan. The reason being is that one of the findings that came out of the study was that parking downtown was very inconvenient because of the time it took to find a parking spot. So we want merchants and the downtown community to be able to have their patrons and customers be able to find spots when they need to so that they can frequent those businesses. So the parking plan addressed that.”

However, Beacon Cinema owner Richard Stanley isn’t too fond of paid downtown parking. Stanley says theatre patrons do not say they have trouble parking.

“Doing anything that puts an impediment between the consumer and their desire to come downtown in my mind is ill-advised,” said Stanley.

Pittsfield is also adding signage and wayfinding for the roughly 6,000 downtown parking spaces. The 2014 study found that less than 60 percent of those spots are full at any given time throughout the day. The city has also posted an interactive parking map on its website.

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