Wednesday June 12, 2013

Lenox and Pittsfield are addressing or planning to address downtown parking issues and community leaders can anticipate opposition. They should hold firm, however, as change is long overdue.

Pittsfield City Councilors Melissa Mazzeo and Christopher Connell have asked the Police Advisory Committee for input on plans to increase traffic fines that have been outdated for decades, with the additional revenue to cover the cost of expanded traffic patrolling and enforcement. The cause is certainly worthy and higher fines may also discourage the routine breaking of city traffic laws.

Pittsfield’s downtown jaywalking problem, for example, which reaches epidemic proportions on East Street when school gets out at Pittsfield High School, won’t be cured through fines, but the current $2 jaywalking fine is not only inconsequential it doesn’t cover the cost of the ticket, which discourages police from handing them out. Cutting down on jaywalking may spare a life and/or a few broken bones.

There will be complaints that because there is "no place to park" in downtown Pittsfield fines for parking violations should not be hiked, but it may be that too many drivers insist on parking in front of their destination or within a few feet. There are places to park for those willing to walk a short distance, and higher penalties will discourage drivers from parking indefinitely in choice spots, opening them up for others periodically.

In Lenox, Selectmen have voted unanimously to authorize a 10-week program beginning downtown on July 1 that will constitute the first effort to enforce the district’s two-hour daytime parking limit in at least 10 years. Fines will be $10, although warnings will be issued at first.

If owners and employees of local businesses are displeased by the edict because they won’t be able to park downtown all day they should consider that choice parking spots are better occupied by customers coming and going and making purchases. The Lenox program will make good business sense during the booming tourism months just weeks away.