The daily parking cap is being eliminated at West Hartford’s three municipal surface parking lots, but the hourly rate will not change.
By Ronni Newton
The Town Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night eliminating the cap for daily parking at municipal surface parking lots with the goal of freeing up more spaces for patrons and giving service employees greater incentive to use another convenient – and possibly less expensive – parking option that has recently been made available.
Council member Ben Wenograd, who chairs the Community Planning and Physical Services Committee, said, “This, even though it seems counter-intuitive … removing the cap this will increase the churn in parking.”
The cap has been $7 per day in the lots as well as the garage, but as more restaurants have moved into the Center, there has been a squeeze on available parking, Mayor Shari Cantor said.
The Community Planning and Physical Services Committee recently discussed the issue, Town Manager Matt Hart said, and agreed that the elimination of the cap, in conjunction with a new program at the Town Center Garage negotiated by Economic Development Specialist Kristen Gorski, would provide incentive for service employees to park in that garage and leave more surface lot spaces available to customers.
The hourly rate at the Brace Road, Farmington Avenue, and Town Hall surface parking lots will remain $1.50, but there will not longer be a daily maximum at any of those lots.
Gorski said that restaurants tend to have more employees than other businesses, and public outreach has indicated that many of those employees who work at locations west of Main Street park in the surface lots during their shifts for convenience as well as cost.
A workforce parking program has been in effect for the Memorial and Isham garages in Blue Back Square since 2008, but those garages are less convenient for employees whose jobs are on the other side of the Center.
The competitive deal that Gorski negotiated with F8 Properties should incentivize service employees to park in the Town Center Garage at the end of Memorial Road, freeing up the limited spaces in the surface lots.
To participate in the Town Center Garage parking program, business owners need to purchase a stamp for a one-time fee of $30. The rate with a stamped ticket is capped at $4.50 for up to 8.5 hours, and $7 per day as a maximum. A monthly parking rate of $95 is also available. The program is available only to service or retail employees.
F8 was “very generous in working with us on this program,” Gorski said.
The Town Center Garage program went into effect in July, she said. It started off slowly, but in September there was a small influx of restaurants that signed on. She’s hoping that more will take advantage.
Dante Cistulli, the managing partner of Savoy Pizzeria & Craft Bar on LaSalle Road, attended Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting. He told We-Ha.com that he is pleased that the town has recognized the parking problem and decided to do something about it.
“It’s great news that our staffs will now have a place to park at a discount,” Cistulli said. “Our restaurant employees work very hard for their money. They deserve to save some cash. On the other side of the token, freeing up so many spaces will help grow the guest base by creating more space to park.”
Cistulli said that it may take a while for the new program to catch on, “but once it does I think we will see an increase in business in West Hartford Center.”
Prior to the vote, Minority Leader Denise Hall asked if the discussion with business owners also covered the topic of employees parking on neighborhood streets. Gorski said that employers do understand that their employees are looking for the cheapest options, but managing on-street parking outside of the zone where there is a two-hour limit is more difficult. “Employers are looking to support the town but we have difficulty policing that,” she said.
Gorski said the elimination of the cap will likely take place in mid-November because it will take about 30 days to reprogram the machines and install new signage that no longer indicates the daily cap.
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