NEWTON, MA — Do you need to pay the meter in Newton yet? The short answer is: No —for now.
On Monday the police department's traffic bureau and city officials decided that on Oct. 19, the Newton Police Department will begin enforcement again on resident permit streets, and one and two hour parking.
The city is not yet ready to begin enforcing parking meters yet, according to police. But it's not clear when enforcement of parking meters will return.
In mid March, shortly after the mayor declared a state of emergency within the city because of the pandemic, she also announced that a handful of parking restrictions — from meter violations, to resident parking only streets to overnight winter ban parking — would not be enforced.
In towns like Brookline, officials stopped enforcing parking in part to help encourage business at restaurants and small businesses until June 1, in Malden enforcement started back up on June 8. In Cambridge it was June 15, as parking enforcement staff returned to work more fully.
Newton's parking enforcement return comes as the city has stressed the coronavirus has left a gaping $9.6 million hole in its fiscal year 2021 budget.
The coronavirus has put the revenue from parking meters, and enforcement of parking restrictions on hold.
But area transportation consultant Bill Schwartz, of the company Nelson, Nygaard said metered parking is less something meant to be relied upon for city revenue and more something that is actually meant to help local businesses.
"It's not just about revenue, it's about supporting the commercial entities nearby, so you're getting the kind of turnover you want to support the business community," Schwartz said in an interview.
As long as people feel confident there will be parking when they arrive at a given location — be it the N2 corridor along Needham Street, or Newton Centre — people will go to the area to do business.
Putting a cost on the parking spaces directly in front of the businesses will help reflect the behavior you want from people visiting, including giving up spaces so others can have them, Schwartz said.
Communities often choose meters over a 15 minute parking sign, because they are easier to enforce.
Still, some in the Newton business community say parking should stay free in the city. Customers haven't had issues finding parking in the villages because of free parking, say business owners.
"Parking meters really are a tool for parking management and shouldn't be a tool for raising revenue," said Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce president Greg Reibman. "It makes sense that if we aren't having a problem managing parking, we should not be charging to use parking meters."
Schwartz said it might sound counterintuitive, but in communities where turnover is an issue, metered parking has helped.
"What you're wanting to do is anything you can to support local business," he said. "In most places there's too much parking available. And even though there's a classic conflict [between free off street and metered parking] the fundamental problem is that there's almost always already too much parking available and that encourages people to drive more, particularly when you could just walk. We really encourage the idea of parking once, and the best way to do that is to have good pedestrian connections and have lots of other alternatives to get around without a car."
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