The days of free downtown parking are over in most communities with heavily-trafficked downtowns and those days are coming to end in Pittsfield. It is past time.
The Pittsfield City Council Tuesday unanimously supported Mayor Linda Tyer's plan to establish metered parking zones between Berkshire Medical Center and the South Street/West Housatonic Street intersection. That in turn followed a recommendation to institute the new system by the Pittsfield Traffic Commission. The kiosk-style meters to be installed are already in use in Northampton, Amherst, among other communities in the state.
City officials estimate that the meters will draw about $400,000 in revenue annually that will be directed toward maintenance of the spaces and parking law enforcement. The latter is of particular importance as no city can afford to have cars clogging prime parking spaces for lengthy periods of time. In that regard, this system should persuade employees to abandon these choice parking spots, making room for paying customers at stores, taverns and restaurants. The fee system will only be in place for what constitutes traditional business hours, as drivers will not be charged for parking on evenings or weekends.
Pittsfield received a powerful impetus to take this action from the state, which conditioned its grant to refurbish the deteriorating Mckay Street parking garage on the city making its parking self-sustaining. The institution of paid downtown parking had to come, but if it came a little sooner because of the state grant, all the better.
Free parking has contributed to the difficulty in finding parking space downtown and has deprived the city of needed revenue. This new system will have tangible benefits to the city and its critically important downtown.