BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS – An outcry against the multispace parking meters that replaced hundreds of single-space meters in Brookline last year has convinced Town Administrator Mel Kleckner that it’s time for the town to reverse course.
Kleckner is proposing a plan to remove almost all of the multispace meters that were installed along Brookline streets at the beginning of 2011 at a cost of more than $1 million. Hired by the town in the fall of 2010, Kleckner said he’s been dealing with complaints about the multispace meter system through most of his tenure.
“I just don’t think it’s convenient enough, and for whatever reason it has really created a problem,” said Kleckner. “It’s a big problem. I think it makes the town look bad.”
Residents have complained that the meters are confusing, slow, and are particularly burdensome for older drivers, who must walk from their parked car to the multispace meter, print a parking receipt, and return to the vehicle to put the slip in the window, even in inclement weather.
Brookline’s Special Town Meeting voted last fall in favor of a resolution asking the town to address all of the problems with the multispace meters, or get rid of them.
Fred Lebow, a member of the town’s Advisory Committee who proposed the resolution, had asked that the meters be replaced, and that officials admit they had made a mistake.
“People were just crazy,” Lebow said of the frustration motorists felt from using the parking meters.
The first step to replace the meters will involve a trial run this spring testing 100 new single-space meters that will replace a few multispace devices in Brookline’s busiest areas,such as Coolidge Corner and Brookline Village, Kleckner said.
The new meters will accept coins and credit cards, and are being provided for free by their manufacturer,San Diego-based IPS Group Inc., during the trial run, he said.
If the single-space units work out, Kleckner said, he will recommend they replace almost all of the multispace meters in town.
He said the town would continue to use multispace meters in municipal parking lots and along the median strip of Beacon Street near the St. Mary’s MBTA stop, where they enable the town to adjust the parking fees to $22 for Red Sox fans attending games at Fenway Park. Red Sox fans park for games at Fenway. The special rates for Red Sox games has raised $38,000 for the town, according to the deputy town administrator, Sean Cronin.
Brookline purchased about 90 multispace meters to replace more than 900 single-space meters last year. The town sold the old meters, and will attempt to sell most of the multispace meters it removes from service. Kleckner said a few will be retained to supplement the multispace meters that will be retained in municipal parking lots.
In his proposed budget for next fiscal year that will go before Town Meeting in May, the town administrator has included $100,000 to pay for the move back to single-space meters.
Kleckner briefed Brookline’s transportation board about the plan earlier this month, and said he has found nothing that would suggest town officials didn’t use their best analysis before deciding to purchase and deploy the multispace meters. He did say, however, that if the town had tested the meters along streets instead of solely in parking lots, officials perhaps could have anticipated some of the problems.
In a telephone interview with the Globe, Kleckner said he doesn’t know why the multispace meters haven’t worked in Brookline when they have been used successfully in neighboring communities, including Boston and Cambridge.
He speculated that one of the reasons could be that parking along Brookline streets tends to be used by residents, as opposed to people visiting from out of town.
The multispace meters have had some benefit to the town, he said. Revenue from overnight parking in town parking lots increased when people weren’t being required to travel to the Public Safety Building to buy an overnight pass, he said.
ButKleckner said the town also saw a significant drop in revenue from parking tickets, in part because the multispace meters make it more difficult for enforcement officers to do their jobs.
The old single-space meters displayed a red panel when the parking time had expired, and meter violations could be quickly spotted by enforcement officers. With the multispace meters, Kleckner said, enforcement officers have to read the parking slip in each vehicle. The new meters will flash red when time is expired and green when time remains on the meter, said Brookline’s transportation director, Todd Kirrane.
While Brookline will keep multispace meters in parking lots, Kleckner said, the town will eliminate the need for motorists to print out a slip and return to their vehicle to put it in the window. Instead, Kleckner said, motorists will park in a numbered spot, and then pay for the corresponding numbered space at the meter.
Lebow said he thinks the changes the town is planning are the best way to fix the parking problems. “Is there a meter system that is absolutely perfect? No,” he said.