By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Depending on who you ask, the city’s new paid parking program has either solved downtown’s parking woes or chased away business.
Tonight, city councilors will ask Haverhill’s parking experts.
Public Works Director Michael Stankovich, who is the city’s point man on paid parking, is scheduled to give a report on the program, which began Aug. 1.
Haverhill’s parking consultant, Jason Schreiber of Nelson/Nygaard, has been analyzing the first five months of the program. Councilors asked for an update at their last meeting. Specifically, they want to know how much money the program has generated so far and whether it has been effective at freeing up parking spaces for shoppers, dinners and other short-term visitors.
The program is designed to dissuade long-term parking by people such as commuters who ride the train and those who live and work downtown from parking for hours at a time in the heart of the business district. Instead, the city wants them to park on peripheral roadways such as Bailey Boulevard where parking is free. The idea is this will open pay spaces near restaurants and other businesses for customers and other short-term visitors to come and go quickly and conveniently.
City officials have made several changes to the plan in recent months, mostly trading metered spaces for permit spaces, and vice versa. Mayor James Fiorentini recently said he is not planning any more changes unless they are recommended by the council.
The plan has a variety of rules governing on-street parking and the use of spaces in parking garages and lots.
On weekdays, drivers must pay 50 cents per hour from 3 to 8 p.m. to park on Washington, Essex, Granite and Wingate streets. Street parking is free from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but is limited to two hours. Drivers pay 50 cents per hour to park in city lots, the same as on-street parking. In September, officials said they had sold more than 800 parking permits for $15 per month to people who live or work downtown. The permits are for permit-only and mixed-use spaces in various lots surrounding the downtown train station.