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February 29, 2012

Editorial: Mayor's parking plan hits mysterious bump in the road

Something's up with the Mayor James Fiorentini's downtown parking plan, and the mayor isn't talking about it at the moment.

But as Tim McCarthy reports in a story on today's front page, the city is about to miss a March 1 deadline to install the meters.

And it will miss the goal by a mile. It will be many months before paid parking is implemented. That being the case, you have to wonder whether it will ever become reality.

The mayor wouldn't comment, but his Chief of Staff David Van Dam said the city is now looking at late summer or early fall for a startup.

"It's on track, but not for March 1," Van Dam said.

At least six months late is on track?

This isn't the first delay. Fiorentini had hoped to have paid parking in place before the new MVRTA parking garage opened in November. The idea was to force rail commuters to use the paid garage rather than hog prized parking spaces downtown, squeezing out patrons of local eateries and other businesses.

The mayor's plan was finally approved by City Council in September. Two months later, the city said a paid system would be in place by March 1.

What happened?

Van Dam said a contractor has been selected — though he wouldn't name the firm — but contract details remain to be ironed out.

We suspect it's more than a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's.

Could it be that the numbers just aren't adding up after the parking plan was massaged to make it less onerous?

Fiorentini said last fall the parking plan has to at least break even. But with an estimated startup cost of almost $500,000, the city would have to collect an awful lot of quarters to make that nut.

Whatever the reason for the delay, Fiorentini needs to explain it and give the public some say in whether to go ahead with the plan as approved, modify it or scrap it.

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