The Amherst Independent

Amherst doubles downtown parking rate, unveils new meter app

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(Peter Morris/Flickr)

(Peter Morris/Flickr)

(Peter Morris/Flickr)

AMHERST — Parking rates in some areas of the center of town doubled from fifty cents per hour to $1 per hour, and Amherst ushered in a new way to pay this week.

A new app called Parkmobile that will allow people to deposit funds into their meters via their smartphones, Town Hall employee Jennifer LaFountain says.

“As long as you know the zone number where you’re parked,” she said. “You can add money through the app.”

The University of Massachusetts Amherst and Northampton already use the app. LaFountain said that she hopes the higher prices will “turn around parking spaces [and] make them more available.”

The app is appealing in part because it does not require much upkeep.

“Paint fades quickly. Everyone has access to their license plate rather than their space number,” LaFountain said.

Parking rates on the outskirts of downtown Amherst, including along Spring Street, Boltwood Avenue, and Sellen Street, remain at fifty cents, as do the lower levels of the garage on Boltwood Walk. The price increase on the surface, though, concerns director of the Amherst Senior Center Nancy Pagan.

The center is located in the Bangs Community Center, directly adjacent to the garage. It shares the building with other agencies like the Center for New Americans, which provides English lessons to recent immigrants, the Veterans’ Department and the Health Department. Various nonprofits also rent space in the building. There is “very little, if any, parking” available for those wishing to make use of the services the center offers.

Amherst is popular with retirees, Pagan said, due to services and cultural opportunities the schools provide. But Pagan is concerned that many low-income seniors may find the new prices unaffordable.

“I think we’re the only senior center where you have to pay to park,” Pagan said. The town has a sticker program that allows residents of the town who are over 65 to pay $25 for a pass to park for free for the calendar year. A quarter of people the center serves come from other towns and many are under 65.

Steven Harutunian, the general manager at Johnny’s Tavern in the center of town, said that the price hike “is cause for some concern.”

“I don’t know if the 50 cents is much of an issue,” Harutunian said.

Surrounding cities are doing the same thing, he says, and the typical guest only stays for two hours or so, meaning the time limits should not be too much of an issue.

“In general, I think I’d rather it remain at the current rate,” Harutunian said, adding that since there’s no other option, it probably won’t be a deterrent.

 

The new system will take effect on Nov. 6. 

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Amherst doubles downtown parking rate, unveils new meter app