Parkers beware: City overstretched at First Street lot

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PITTSFIELD — For $25 a month, permit holders can park at the municipal lot on First Street near The Common — if they can find a space.

And that's a big "if."

Permit holders complain that overbooking by the city has made parking increasingly competitive in the city lot.

There are 138 permit holders competing with metered customers for 172 spaces in the lot, according to information provided by the city. Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said city employees are among those permitted to park in the popular downtown lot.

"I know that we have to come up with some solutions," he said.

Solutions can't come soon enough for those looking to park close to their place of work.

Several employees of the Department of Children and Families office on Eagle Street said they pay out-of-pocket for permits in the lot, but often struggle to find a space. The troubles grew after the city renovated the lot two years ago, they said.

"As the time went on, more and more people just started parking there," said Chris Kelley, who works in the office and pays for a permit.

Other permit holders interviewed for the story, who declined to be named, said they try not to schedule out-of-office appointments for fear they won't be able to find a parking spot upon their return.

Indeed, not a space was to be had around 2:15 p.m. Monday.

Turocy said the city is aware of the problem, but hasn't yet landed on a path forward for parking frustrations on First Street.

Perhaps the city could look into providing overarching downtown permits, he said, meaning once the First Street lot fills up, permit holders could take their permit to McKay Street or to another downtown lot. And for those who still want spaces in the First Street lot, he said they'd pay a premium.

Another solution could be to require all city employees, who often park at the First Street lot but don't pay for their permits, to park at McKay.

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"That would certainly free up some spaces," he said.

There has been talk about the issue among city officials, he said, "but we don't have a clear direction for which way we're heading right now."

The First Street lot has a total of 216 spots, according to Turocy's office. Of those, 24 spaces are designated for metered parking only. Seven spaces are restricted for handicapped parking, and 13 spaces are reserved for businesses and apartment buildings. That leaves 172 spaces for permit holders to share with metered customers, who can park in any of the spaces.

Permit holders pay $25 a month for a space in the city's uncovered lots, he said, and $35 a month for garages. For $50 and $70 a month, respectively, businesses and apartment complexes can also reserve specific spaces closer to their establishments.

"The First Street lot is the one we're having issues with," he said.

The city took a more cautious approach to permits at the newly finished Summer Street lot, Turocy said. There were more requests this spring than he was willing to approve because he didn't want to overbook the lot.

"The reason we're cautious is because of the issues with the First Street lot," he said.

Some 68 permit holders carried over from the new lot's days as a garage, he said, and the city approved only six additional permits. That makes 74 spaces spoken for in a lot with 150 spaces.

Figuring out what to do about the Melville Street lot will be another challenge, Turocy said. Under the parking plan approved in 2016, the lot was slated for parking meters — just like the lots on First Street and Summer Street.

But because of the clientele served by the Boys & Girls Club of the Berkshires and the Berkshire Family YMCA, he said "we really wanted to look at that more closely."

For now the lot on Melville Street remains free three-hour parking.

He said the approach the city has taken with the First and Summer street lots is to apply metered parking as the city spends money renovating them. So far, he said, there are no plans to renovate the Melville Street lot.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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