BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Commuters who arrive early at the train station looking for free parking spaces could soon be out of luck.
The city is planning to install meters at 112 parking spaces, most of them on streets near the depot where drivers now park for free.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said the money raised from the meters will help pay the city’s half-million-dollar share of the $25 million MBTA parking garage that is being built near the train station.
“We’re going to be paying for $500,000 worth of the garage project, so obviously we’re interested in the revenue,” Scanlon said.
The meters are part of the city’s plan to control parking and traffic in the area while the MBTA builds a 500-space parking garage. Construction began last month, forcing the MBTA to close its 86-space parking lot on Court Street, where the garage will be built.
Scanlon said the long-term meters will cost 25 cents per hour, so commuters can park for eight hours at a cost of $2, less than what it cost to park in the Court Street lot. He said the city will likely increase the cost of the parking meters once the garage is open to encourage commuters to use the new facility.
The garage, which will have 500 parking spaces, is scheduled to open in December 2013. An MBTA spokesman said Friday that the agency has not yet determined how much it will cost to park there. Daily parking rates at its various locations now range from $4 to $7 per day, according to the MBTA website.
Scanlon said commuters can also use the public parking lots near Cabot Street until the garage is built. Parking costs $1 per day at long-term meters in those lots, he said.
Scanlon said the city might provide a shuttle service between the municipal lots and the train station.
The installation of the meters is part of a larger plan by the city to revise the parking regulations and ordinances governing the streets near the train station. Ward 2 City Councilor Wes Slate first asked for the study two years ago in anticipation of the garage being built.
“Parking and traffic is problematic for everyone,” Slate said. “The garage pushed everybody to thinking that it was going to have a major impact on that area.”
Staff and interns from the city’s Engineering Department surveyed the entire area, including showing up at 5 a.m. to observe when and where commuters parked. City Engineer Eric Barber said commuters arrive early to get the free parking spots on River Street, then sit in their cars drinking coffee or reading the newspaper until the train comes.
Barber and his staff collected data on current parking patterns, signs and regulations and used Geographic Information Systems software to map a variety of changes for the area, including the installation of two-hour-limit signs on some of the residential streets between Rantoul and Cabot streets.
“The big thing is we want to encourage commuters to use the garage and the public parking lots so that it frees up what is a limited amount of parking for residents and businesses in the area,” Slate said.
A public hearing on the parking plan is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 17, at 7:20 p.m. at City Hall. The plan must be approved by the City Council.
Scanlon said the parking meters will be installed gradually as soon as the council approves the plan. He said the city already has parking meters and does not need to buy new ones.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.
Meter installations planned