A couple crosses Cottage Street on a recent evening. Parking has been extra tough to come by this year and revenues indicate it could be a banner year. ISLANDER PHOTO BY ETHAN GENTER

Parking revenue is up this summer

BAR HARBOR — You probably don’t need the newspaper to tell you this, but things have been busy so far this summer.  

If you were interested in having some hard numbers, though, parking revenues may be one of the best figures to measure just how crammed Bar Harbor is. In 2019, Bar Harbor took in $283,843 for the month of June through its parking program. This June, the town received $402,772. 

“I think it’s no secret that Bar Harbor was busier in June than most previous Junes,” said Alf Anderson, the executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.  

Usually, things reach a peak at Memorial Day Weekend, but then there is a little bit of a lull until July 4. It gives businesses a chance to catch up and train their employees for the summer rush. But they haven’t had that breath-catching moment yet, according to Anderson.  

“This year it was just all full speed ahead since Memorial Day,” he said.  

Anderson did say that the parking numbers could have also seen a boost because of the reduced service from other transportation providers. Someone who may have previously taken a bus to get from the ‘quiet side’ of the island to Bar Harbor is now probably driving and parking.  

But the numbers do seem to reflect the rise in visitors in June, and the rise in revenue is actually even more impressive considering several parking spaces in town are being taken up for parklets.  

Parking costs $2 an hour in the core downtown area and the rest of the paid spots are $1.50 an hour. No one area seems to be more swamped than another.  

“Everywhere is full,” said Chris Wharff, who oversees the town’s parking program. “It’s busy.” 

Even places that didn’t used to get filled are hard up for space, like the dirt parking lot near the ball fields. “There’s people parking in places this summer that they haven’t in the past,” Wharff said.   

Last year, with so many things up in the air with the pandemic, parking revenues were predictably down, clocking in at $75,314 for June 2020. Overall, for Fiscal Year 2021, which just ended, the town had $1,627,561 in parking revenue. Meters run from May to October.  

Sarah Gilbert, the town’s finance director who provided the parking figures to the Islander, did note that the revenue from parking meters and kiosks isn’t directly pocketed by the town and there is a cost to the program. Every month, the town has to pay credit card processing fees and there’s regular maintenance that needs to be done to keep meters working.  

The revenue is high, but it’s not the true, full picture, Gilbert said. The town did not yet have the numbers for the expenditures.  

What the rest of the summer will look like is probably more of the same – lots of parking spots filled with vehicles and probably some unlucky drivers circling around for an open spot.  

Anderson’s projection for the rest of the season?  

“I think it’s going to be busy.”  

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.

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