New parking plan may force commuters to pay

Courtesy image

A map of planned changes to the downtown Beverly parking district. 

BEVERLY — The city is set to roll out a new parking plan this spring that is intended to address downtown parking issues, but may also force commuters into the MBTA garage.

For years, many commuters have parked for free on the side streets between Rantoul and Cabot streets, just a short walk away from the Beverly Depot train station.

But under the new plan, these streets will be limited to four-hour parking except for residents, who will get new parking stickers, and employees who work at businesses on one of the two main corridors, and who will also get special parking permits.

A public hearing on the plan, which would take effect in the spring, is scheduled for Monday night during the City Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Overall, the parking plan aims to make parking downtown more organized and user-friendly for visitors. High-demand areas, such as key retail and restaurant zones along Cabot and Rantoul streets, will be 75 cents an hour Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The four-hour zones with resident and employee passes are set for side streets such as Fayette and Pleasant streets.

Public parking lots will continue to be 25 cents an hour, the current rate, from Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monthly passes for these can be purchased for $25 a month.

Mayor Mike Cahill said he asked the MBTA to discount garage parking for those with a monthly commuter rail pass, but the T refused. The cost is currently $5 for the first 14 hours, and $12 for between 14 and 24 hours.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the T does not plan to reduce the rate for frequent users of MBTA garages. There is no discount for the Salem garage, either, he said.

That means commuters who can now park on side streets near Beverly Depot for free will need to pay up to $25 a week to park in the MBTA garage, once the four-hour parking rules go into effect.

The Beverly garage has an average utilization rate of roughly 50 percent; neighboring Salem is at about 70 percent.

Commuters may be unhappy, but residents who have struggled to find a parking spot on their street may welcome the change. Ward 2 City Councilor Estelle Rand, who represents the area, said residents often have trouble finding parking spaces when they come home from work at night, because commuters are still taking up many of the spaces.

"A lot of the side streets have multi-families without adequate parking," she said, noting that many of them may have been single-family homes at one point. "That's actually where the parking crunch comes from."

While some people may be concerned about new development adding to parking woes, Rand said new development is required to have sufficient parking. 

Overall, city officials say they hope the plan will benefit not only residents, but visitors as well. 

"It's really going to help a lot of residents and businesses just to reorganize parking," Rand said. "I'm glad about that."

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at amacneill@salemnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.