Rebecca Schantz / The Dartmouth Staff
On a good day, Courtyard Cafe employee Donna Britch only fills the meter next to a parking spot on School Street once every 10 hours. On the worst days, she hikes from Thompson Arena's parking lot to the Hopkins Center. Like many who struggle to find consistent parking in Hanover, Britch may benefit from the town's proposed parking policy changes, which include increased meter costs and day passes for the public parking lot.
Last year, the Hanover Board of Selectmen hired Desman Associates, a parking consulting group, to conduct a study on ways to improve downtown Hanover's parking. The findings were presented last Monday to the Board and included suggestions to offer day passes for the public parking lot on South Lebanon Street, open more permitted parking spaces to workers on Lebanon Street and raise the cost of parking meters.
Hanover currently lacks sufficient accessible parking spaces for both employees and potential customers. The most popular spots, the two- and three-hour metered spaces along Main Street, fill up quickly.
"The best spaces in town are the ones with the time limit," said Patrick O'Neill, Hanover's Parking Division supervisor.
"They are the ones that customers want to park in, but when the 10-hour meters and the free employee parking is full, where do we accommodate employee parking?"
For many Hanover employees, however, the two-hour parking spaces are often their only option. Katticus Metallicus, a Morano Gelato employee, said the public parking lot is too expensive to use regularly.
"Parking there is extortion," she said. "It's $15 a day."
The public parking lot is rarely full. On an average day, there are around 50 empty parking spaces, O'Neill said. The town may begin to offer two-dollar day passes to encourage people not to use street parking.
O'Neill said the town is looking into ways to create more permitted parking spaces for Hanover employees. Currently, roughly 100 permitted parking spaces are available near Hanover High School. Half are used by high school students and employees must park at Thompson Arena, which is much less accessible. The town may have high school students park at Thompson Arena to open permitted spaces to employees, O'Neill said.
Main Street Kitchen employee Lisa Newcity said that she tries to avoid parking at Thompson Arena whenever possible.
"It's pretty far to walk in the cold or in the dark," she said. "It's a much better option in the summer."
Briyanna Hall, an employee at the Courtyard Cafe, said she dislikes parking at Thompson because of its remote location.
"At night, you have to walk pretty far, which is very dangerous," Hall said.
Another proposed change would be an increase in the price of parking meters in the central business district of Hanover. It currently costs 50 cents an hour to park at a two-hour meter space, and 25 cents an hour to park a 10-hour meters spaces. The proposal would raise the cost of the two-hour meter to $1 an hour and the ten-hour meter to 75 cents an hour.
"There is no incentive to park farther away because everything is the same price," O'Neill said. "By raising the rates in the central district, we'll provide an incentive to park farther away."
Sarah Gormley, who works at Main Street Kitchen, believes increasing meter rates would be unpopular.
"No one will be thrilled," she said. "Finding metered parking is hard, especially during lunch."
Hall said she "can't imagine" the price of parking increasing, while Metallicus said that the proposed plan "sounds like a load of crap."
O'Neill said that it is to too early to know whether the town will enact these changes. The Board of Selectmen will discuss the parking budget at a meeting later this month and will likely discuss specific proposals in the upcoming months. If the board makes a decision, it will likely be announced before July 1, O'Neill said.
Employees said the best way to improve Hanover's parking would be to increase the number of available spaces.
Adding parking spaces designated only for employees could help solve the current problems, Gormley said.
Britch, however, proposed a simpler solution to address Hanover's parking woes.
"Why don't they just build a public garage under the Green?" she said. "They could have all the engineers over at Dartmouth build it."