Jun 28, 2016 9:52 PM

Concord parking prices could double as officials review overhaul

Drivers looking to park in downtown Concord could see prices and fines more than double next year.

The Parking Committee is reviewing recommendations made by city administrators to overhaul how parking in the city is managed, specifically by implementing a demand-based pricing system.

This means the price for the most coveted spots along Main Street would increase to $1.75 per hour, a full dollar more than the current rate. Parking on all other streets would be $1.25 and $0.75 in surface lots and garages. Ticket fines for expired meters would also increase from $10 to $25.

“I think they should reexamine what their plan is and come up with something else, because it’s not fair,” said Evelyn Barker, who was in Concord as one of her daughters took her nursing boards. “That’s doubling it. It’s ridiculous."

The plan was created to both distribute parking more evenly around the nearly 4,000 spots available in the downtown area and to generate revenue.

The city’s parking system operates on a special revenue fund, meaning it’s sustained by parking fares and fines. However, officials project that fund will be about $130,000 in the negative at the end of this fiscal year.

Still, people in Concord thought the proposed solution was solidified too soon and could be too extreme.

“There’s probably going to be an uproar from the businesses,” said Debra Barnes, owner of Wellington’s Marketplace. “I think that given enough time there could potentially be some other avenues. Sure, you might have to raise the rate a little bit, but there’s got to be another way.”

Barker agreed, saying if the proposed rates were in effect now, she would’ve sought other parking options for her day trip.

“I probably wouldn’t have parked,” she said Tuesday. “I probably would’ve maybe parked in like a department store parking lot or something like that and maybe walked.”

She also expressed worry that raising prices would deter people from visiting altogether.

Downtown Concord continues to undergo serious changes as the Main Street Project moves forward. Barnes said between it and the possibility of raising parking fares, the responsibility is on business owners to make downtown a place people want to regularly visit.

“Make it worth the trip, make it worth the walk, whether it was from a parking garage three streets over or in the rain or in the snow,” she said. “It’s that destination.”

Barnes added that someday, she hopes everything downtown would be worth paying the proposed parking prices, which are equivalent to rates in other local cities, including Manchester and Portsmouth.

“At some point, absolutely,” she said. “We have to become more of a destination first, but we’re starting to look like our capital city.”

The Parking Committee will continue to review the plan over its next few meetings, which are open to the public. Then, it will present a finalized plan to the City Council.

If approved, the plan will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

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