BANGOR, Maine — City councilors will vote Wednesday on whether to change the time limit on nearly 100 downtown parking spaces from one hour to 90 minutes.
The proposal, drafted by Councilor Hal Wheeler, has been discussed at length at previous meetings but has not produced a strong consensus. Supporters believe that the change would make the downtown more attractive to visitors who might want to have lunch or shop without rushing to move their vehicles. Opponents are concerned that the change would make it easier for drivers who move their vehicles periodically to avoid parking tickets.
Wheeler said he hoped Wednesday’s meeting would generate interest from the public.
“The downtown merchants, whom this change would help, have not been active in communication with the council,” he said.
The largest section of the proposed change is Main Street from Hammond Street to Union Street. Other areas include: State Street from Kenduskeag Stream to Exchange Street and Harlow and Central streets.
If the changes were approved, there would be some minor costs to the city in producing new signage. Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia also has said that the change would result in lost parking ticket revenue. Another potential concern is confusion among motorists, since some one-hour spots would change while others would not.
City councilors were scheduled to vote on the parking changes at a meeting on Sept. 14, but Wheeler tabled the matter because not all nine councilors were present. He said he expects a close vote at Wednesday’s meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.
The 90-minute parking debate is one of several proposed and enacted changes to the way the city deals with parking. Within the last year, the city has adopted changes to several area parking lots and on-street parking spaces and has considered changes to others.
More recently, Police Chief Gastia instituted a parking ticket mandate for patrol officers to help crack down on parking violations, specifically in residential areas of the city. Since the mandate was issued on Aug. 5, parking tickets written by patrol officers went from about 50 a month to nearly 600, but it hasn’t sat well with some members of the community.
Administrators at John Bapst Memorial High School, one of the areas specifically targeted for increased parking enforcement, complained to the city, prompting the two sides to begin working together on a solution.
More recently, some downtown businesspeople have written to the city challenging the enforcement of handicapped parking violations.
The latest parking considerations are not expected to be as controversial as some in the past, but Wheeler said it’s important for the city to continually look at ways to bring more people downtown.