The City Council's Planning and Development subcommittee chairman has filed an order asking the city to take the parking meters off Main Street — again.
Councilor and former four-term mayor Bruce Tobey filed the order in April, and the council's Ordinance and Administration subcommittee took it up Monday night.
It's the third time he's filed the order, which Tobey says would give a boost to the businesses on Main Street. His order asks the council to approve removing the meters and replacing them with two-hour free parking spaces. But, taking down the meters means taking a several hundred thousand dollar chunk out of the city's budget.
According to city Chief Financial Officer Jeff Towne, Gloucester brings in around $330,000 in parking meter revenues a year. That's the amount it budgeted for fiscal 2012, which runs through June 30. And it's the estimated figure Mayor Carolyn Kirk proposed in her budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1. The mayor's budget is under review by the city's Budget and Finance subcommittee. In 2011, Towne said, the city brought in about $380,200 in meter revenues.
Meters on Main Street alone, Towne said, bring in an average of $2,000 each week. That's about $104,000 each year.
Tobey said a more vibrant downtown is worth the loss in revenues.
The city, he added, is wrongly addicted to that revenue — sometimes at the expense of the local economy.
"I travel a lot in my professional life and go to communities around the country," Tobey said, "I see a pattern between prosperous downtowns and the absence of parking meters, and those that aren't doing so well and the presence of parking meters."
User-friendly downtowns, he said, let people park in them for free rather than setting up meters. The argument that meters ration the city's parking inventory doesn't work either, Tobey said. What keeps the parking rationed and moving is enforcement doing what it does now.
Just like when people don't pay or run out meters and get a ticket, staying in a space too long will result in a ticket as well, Tobey said.
The council, he said, also passed an ordinance in 2010 that made shuffling around spaces illegal. The ordinance states that, if a driver relocates a car that has been parked for less than the time limit and parks in a space 500 feet away within five minutes of when the space had been vacated, they would receive an overtime parking ticket as well.
That prevents people who work downtown, Tobey said, from taking up parking on Main Street.
Removing the meters, he said, would help make Gloucester's downtown more vibrant.
"It's not just about growing revenues," Tobey said, "sometimes it's about growing business."
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.