BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Drivers of the North Shore rejoice! The city’s new smart meters have gone from foe to friend.
Beginning today, motorists will get 30 minutes of free parking at the city’s 135 smart meters, the wireless meters in the heart of the downtown that take credit and debit cards in addition to cash.
Mayor Kim Driscoll sent city councilors a letter yesterday announcing the change, which comes just weeks after a controversy arose over the installation of ground sensors in smart meter spaces, which wiped out the time left on meters as soon as a car pulled out of a parking space.
Several merchants complained about the change, with one saying it “feels like we’re nickel-and-diming people.”
Apparently, the mayor agrees.
“I recognize that, for many people, the inability to use carryover time or take advantage of time left on a smart meter may seem like an unwelcome message to downtown patrons,” the mayor wrote to councilors. “In addition, others in Salem like the ‘pay it forward’ aspect of the old meters, meaning folks like being able to leave behind a few minutes for the next motorist. I’m not surprised, given the strong sense of community spirit in Salem.
“Having the ability to use a few minutes left over from the last vehicle is also helpful for people who just need to park and run into a business for a few minutes to drop something off or pick something up. With that in mind, I’ve directed our Parking Department to adjust the reset time to 30 minutes on all smart meters in our city.”
The half-hour of free parking “will enable anyone making a quick trip downtown to use a parking space at a smart meter for free,” the mayor stated.
“While this may cause a small reduction in revenues, it will be far more welcoming to patrons and stay true to our goal of maintaining parking availability by supporting short-term parking use at convenient, on-street spaces.”
There are smart meters on Washington, Federal, Church and Lynde streets.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.