BANGOR, Maine — Bangor officials are considering whether to extend the hours of the Pickering Square parking garage a few nights per week to give downtown patrons an alternative to sometimes-hard-to-come-by street parking.
The garage is open to public parking 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. The garage is closed Sundays and holidays. This schedule works well for downtown employees, diners and shoppers, but it is a challenge for people partaking in downtown Bangor’s night scene.
On occasion, people have complained to the city of walking to the garage after a night out with friends or a show at the theater to find the gates closed and no way to get to their vehicle.
Downtown Bangor might be busier than ever before with its restaurants, bars, concerts and the theater in operation, and parking can be at a premium, especially Friday or Saturday night.
“What used to be an easy task finding a parking space downtown has become more of a challenge,” said Parke Clemons, manager of Republic Parking, which runs parking operations for the city at the parking garage and airport. Construction in West Market Square and surrounding streets this summer has added to that challenge.
Clemons told the city’s Business and Economic Development Committee Tuesday night that if the garage were to extend its hours, it likely would contract with a security firm to staff additional hours at the garage. The security workers could man the gates, patrol the garage, and assist patrons with the automated exit and payment machine if they need help, he said.
But there’s a cost with that.
Republic Parking pays its security company $13.50 per hour per officer, Clemons said. So if Republic were to extend the garage hours to midnight, it would cost the city $40.50 per weeknight or $81 on Saturdays. If the city were to extend three nights per week, the cost would be about $6,300 annually, Clemons said. The later the hours or the more days included, the more that cost would rise.
Clemons said it’s unclear how much revenue the expanded hours would bring in to offset costs. The first two hours of parking in the garage are free, so it depends largely on how many people stay longer than that. On Saturdays, parking has been free. That could change depending on an annual report coming out later this summer.
Councilors likely will consider the expanded hours as they continue budget deliberations, pairing it up against other potential programs they’d like to add or eliminate. The city is trying to identify ways to trim the budget in hopes of stemming a significant budget hike in the next fiscal year.
Councilors also will have to weigh whether they want the garage to stay open until midnight or later, as well as which and how many days those late hours will be held.
Clemons reminded Bangor residents and visitors that the parking spaces under the garage and in Kenduskeag Plaza behind the garage are open to anyone after business hours and don’t close overnight.