Hanover sees rise in town and campus parking prices

by Charles Chen | 7/5/19 2:20am

7-5-19-parking1-divya-kopalle
by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth

Earlier this week, parking rates across Hanover were raised, including both in town-owned parking lots and the parking garage, as well as at meters throughout town. While not a flat raise across all spaces, some rates increased by over 50 percent and some even doubled. The town has also rolled out a mobile parking payment system called “ParkMobile” downtown.

According to town parking supervisor sergeant Jeffrey Ballard the prices were raised to respond to inflation. The increases are based on the recommendations of a parking study held for over a year and a half, Ballard said.

“Prices for everything go up, but we [hadn’t raised the parking rates],” Ballard said. 

Ballard noted that prices for street parking haven’t been raised since 2012, and rates for the garage have been steady for even longer.

According to Hanover town manager Julia Griffin, the town had several goals in mind beyond reacting to inflation when instating the new price levels, including freeing up parking spaces for visitors to Hanover and ensuring that meter spaces are used only on a short-term basis.

The largest rate hike occurred for the short-term meters on Main Street and Municipal Lot 1, the large parking lot behind Molly’s Restaurant, where costs per minute have doubled. This increase is meant to free up spaces in downtown Hanover for visitors to the town, according to Griffin.

“Our goal with these fees is to free up our parking meters right in our core downtown area” Griffin said. “We want to steer folks who work in the downtown area to park a little bit on the periphery.”

One problem in particular that concerned the town was Dartmouth community members who opted to use street meters rather than town or campus parking lots, according to Griffin.

“Increasingly, downtown and up in the public streets of campus, more and more Dartmouth people, including faculty and staff, were choosing to meter feed,” Griffin said. 

She added that the old $10 meter violation fee was not enough of a deterrent for many, and for that reason, the cost for this violation has been bumped to $15.

“Those meters are there as short-term meters for a reason,” Griffin said. “They are for visitors to campus, folks coming to use [Baker-Berry Library.]”

Griffin said that Dartmouth faculty and staff have parking available from the College and should not be using town parking during the day.

Government professor Michelle Clarke uses the street meters during the day. 

“Parking is a massive problem and I think everyone knows it,” she said. “It’s impossible for me to find parking anywhere nearby my office or where I teach at the times I arrive on campus.”

According to Clarke, parking at the College suffers both from limited supply and lopsided distribution, with too many spaces located far from campus. Unless one arrives early in the morning before 7:30 a.m., one must usually park in one of several satellite lots around campus, she said.

“I have to walk from a satellite lot carrying books and a laptop computer in the winter or the summer,” Clarke said. “It’s both inconvenient and leaves me in a position where I don’t come across as professional when I arrive.” 

On some days, Clarke said that she even found the satellite lots full. However, Clarke recognized the effect Dartmouth community members have on the availability of parking in the town overall.

“I understand why the city is trying to push faculty out of those [parking] spaces,” she said. “I come to Hanover trying to frequent the businesses and I can’t find parking, and that’s partly because of spillover from campus.”

Apart from metered street parking, prices have also increased at the town parking garage. According to Griffin, under the previous parking plan, the town had set aside certain spaces in the garage for workers in town on the lower end of the pay scale that arrived later in the day. However, the town found that others were also taking advantage of the cheap parking within the garage and rolled back the low cost.

“What we discovered was that a whole lot of people — highly paid folks, downtown executives and highly paid office staff — were taking advantage of the cheap parking in the garage,” Griffin said.

The parking price changes also came with the introduction of ParkMobile to meters in downtown Hanover, which allows users to pay for parking through a mobile app. According to Griffin, it has been used by over 100 people in the week since it has been enabled.

Griffin said that the town reaction has been relatively muted, but she noted that the summer is a unique time of year for Hanover when much of the traffic through town comes from visitors.

 Norwich resident Roger Danilek, who works at a software company located on Main Street, said that the costs of parking are too high.

“Coming from Norwich where the cost is zero dollars and zeros cents, [the cost in Hanover] is pretty high,” Danilek said, adding that, in Hanover, parking at the CVS lot is a common occurrence.

The Norwich parking ordinance makes no mention of charging for any kind of parking in the town unless one violates time and zoning rules.

Solving the town’s perennial parking issue is not as simple as building more lots, according to Ballard. He said there is no public land available for development into more parking spaces meaning that the town must contend with leasing lots from private owners, such as the now closed parking lot beside where the Everything But Anchovies restaurant used to be.

“We just lost another parking lot we leased from a private owner this spring,” Ballard said. “Unfortunately, they wanted to renegotiate the terms of the lease and the town couldn’t afford to continue to lease the lot.”