Opinions sought on downtown Lewiston parking

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LEWISTON — Fewer and fewer people are keeping loose change in their pockets, which does not bode well for revenue from parking meters that only accept quarters, dimes and nickels. 

That is one of the issues Lewiston officials hope a new downtown parking study and public meeting will address.

As many cities have moved to kiosk systems known as “multi-space pay stations” that accept credit cards, Lewiston still uses a combination of coin-operated meters and time-limited parking. 

When discussing the upcoming meeting on downtown parking with the City Council this week, City Administrator Ed Barrett joked, “People under 30 don’t carry quarters on them anymore.” 

On average, the city pays more for parking enforcement and upkeep than it receives in revenue. 

Late last year, the city issued a request for proposals for a downtown parking meter study to assess Lewiston’s current system and make recommendations to update and expand it. The recommendations could include new kiosk systems that issue parking receipts and meters on more city streets.

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The city is inviting residents to a community meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at City Hall to discuss parking options.

Barrett said a consulting firm has already been hired to do the work, and that the public meeting “is intended to offer folks with an interest in parking downtown to express their thoughts, concerns and suggestions to the consulting firm and the city.”

Barrett said Thursday that Lewiston’s current parking meters “are very old and must be replaced with newer meters, technology.”

“This need precipitated an interest in taking a comprehensive look at how we manage on-street parking and how it interfaces with our downtown off-street system,” he said.

“We wanted to have this meeting early in the process so that any information, ideas or comments provided could be taken into account before the consulting firm starts developing any specific recommendations.” 

According to the city’s request for proposals, about half of the 216 parking meters in Lewiston generate significant revenue.

Since the 1990s, the city has also removed more than 120 meters as part of redevelopment agreements.

“A preliminary analysis of the available on-street parking suggests up to 400 additional on-street parking spaces could be metered, further encouraging the use of the parking structures and increase parking revenue,” according to the city’s request for proposals.

Roads marked for potential metering include Lisbon, Main, Lincoln and Sabattus streets, and other connecting streets.

Over the past three years, Lewiston has averaged approximately $36,000 in revenue from parking meters. However, two part-time enforcement officers cost $35,500, and the Public Works Department’s maintenance expenses average $8,500 — for a total of $44,000 a year. 

The current meter fees are 50 cents an hour, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Compared to other cities, such as Portland, Lewiston’s meter fees are far cheaper. 

In Portland, meters cost $1.25 per hour and run Monday through Saturday until 6 p.m. 

In Lewiston, consultants have consistently recommended that storefront parking and “the most sought-after spaces should be priced higher than the public parking structures where customers would park then walk to their destinations.”  

The city has five parking garages that charge $1 per hour, with the first hour free.

arice@sunjournal.com

Dan Culliton, an employee of Cale Parking Systems USA, installs a solar electronic parking meter in Portland in 2012. Similar options will be looked at in Lewiston, where officials will hold a public meeting March 21 on downtown parking. (Sun Journal file photo)

Auburn hosting pedestrian safety meeting

AUBURN — The Maine Department of Transportation is hosting a public meeting on safety improvements at various downtown intersections.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, at Auburn Hall — the same day as a public meeting in Lewiston on downtown parking. 

According to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which is also involved, the meeting will discuss “operational and safety improvements” at the following intersections: Academy and High streets, Academy and Main streets, Elm and Main streets, Elm and High streets, Elm Street and Minot Avenue, and Minot Avenue and High Street.

The coalition says MaineDOT is “particularly interested” in learning local views on the projects’ consistency with local comprehensive plans, discovering local resources and identifying local concerns and issues.

“This is an opportunity to raise concerns, to bring ideas, and to promote the importance of making roads safe and comfortable for pedestrians and bicyclists,” said Angela King, community advocacy coordinator for the Bicycle Coalition.

“Roads are for everyone, whether they are walking, rolling, on a bike or in a car. As we have learned, having input at the initial design stages can make a real difference.”

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