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Sunday, July 14, 2013

NH cities say they have no overnight parking problems

NASHUA – The Gate City is the only large city in the state that prohibits overnight on-street parking.

Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth, Dover and Keene all allow overnight parking on city streets in some fashion, and those communities have approached the issue in different ways. ...

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NASHUA – The Gate City is the only large city in the state that prohibits overnight on-street parking.

Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth, Dover and Keene all allow overnight parking on city streets in some fashion, and those communities have approached the issue in different ways.

Officials in other cities were surprised to hear Nashua didn’t allow parking anywhere in the city from midnight to 6 a.m. when The Telegraph called the parking enforcement departments in those towns.

“Are you sure?” asked Lt.
Maureen Tessier, who oversees parking enforcement in Manchester, conveying her surprise.

Nashua aldermen and other officials say they’re still weighing all of the costs and logistics of putting a targeted overnight parking pilot program in place in the Tree Streets, let alone one that’s citywide.

A traffic study group with representatives from the Nashua police and fire departments, as well as planning and engineering, are meeting privately to discuss the program, and are due to make a recommendation to the Board of Aldermen’s Committee on Infrastructure by July 24.

The Telegraph called representatives from other New Hampshire cities for their perspective on overnight parking in their communities, and officials from each of those cities said they’ve allowed overnight parking in some capacity for years without problems.

Tessier said she can’t recall Manchester ever placing a restriction on overnight parking. Manchester has an estimated population of about 110,200 and is the state’s largest city. Nashua is second with about 86,930 residents, according to the 2012 U.S. Census.

Tessier said when overnight parking is restricted in Manchester, it’s during large snowstorms, and that beacons all over the city flash to notify residents no parking is allowed.

“It flashes a white strobe light that says when blinking, there’s a snow emergency. That’s been a good addition,” she said, adding commercial vehicles aren’t allowed to park overnight to minimize congestion on the streets.

In the winter, as snowbanks pile up, Tessier said certain streets have odd-side, even-side parking.

Asked if Manchester was concerned about vehicle break-ins or thefts with more cars on the street, as Nashua officials have noted in their consideration of overnight parking, Tessier responded, “That’s not on our radar.”

Manchester’s restrictions “have a lot more to do with what’s safe in terms of traffic flow, that sort of thing,” Tessier said. “We’re also recognizing the fact that in a city urban environment, where you have multiple family buildings in a congested area, you know these folks have to park somewhere.”

Concord Police parking manager Dave Florence said he was a little more understanding of Nashua’s concerns, since his city, with a population of 42,630, started allowing overnight parking just a few years ago after having a long-standing prohibition from 2-6 a.m.

Florence said Concord adopted a pilot parking program and from there, enacted a citywide program it has today.

“They wanted to stimulate residents living downtown, and they thought parking prohibited that,” Florence said. “It was a hindrance to people being downtown. We lifted it just in the downtown core and it was adopted, except for when we call for a parking ban in the snow.”

He added the program has been successful, and the city has other restrictions in place to manage the congestion, as well – residents may not leave a car for longer than 48 hours in one spot, or they’re fined $25.

The city prohibits parking during a snow ban, which results in a $100 fine or towing.

Concord also uses a residential sticker parking program near the University of New Hampshire School of Law campus.

Florence said the department didn’t see a difference in the crime rate after lifting the parking ban.

“We didn’t really see an increase or a decrease in crime,” he said. “At that time, the chief said he didn’t feel that lifting the ban would all of a sudden just increase crime.”

Florence said, however, that the city saw a $50,000 decrease in revenue for tickets issued for overnight parking.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth and Dover noted they have special technical amenities available to help residents avoid charges and tickets.

Portsmouth parking operations supervisor Thomas Cocchiaro said the Port City and Dover use EasyPark
portable devices, so residents can log on to their computers from the comfort of their own homes and pay digitally if they’re parked in a metered spot. The device is placed inside residents’ vehicles.

Cocchiaro said the city started adopted this system in January and that it has been going well, while police haven’t had an issue keeping up enforcement with cars parked overnight.

“Our parking enforcement officers keep their eyes open for anything suspicious,” he said, noting residents are good about reporting any crime they witness.

“There’s a good community culture, and it would be hard to get away with anything in Portsmouth.”

Keene parking operations manager Ginger Hill and Dover parking manager Bill Simons also said parking overnight hasn’t been an issue for their communities, with snow parking bans in Keene from November to May and in Dover from December to April.

Simons said the police opinion in Dover is that breaking into a car “is as easy in a parking lot as it is on the street.”