Character matters

To the Editor:

Kudos to the Islander for the recent editorial providing a very clear explanation for one of the main reasons that the summer parking problem in downtown Bar Harbor has gotten worse during recent years and for raising important questions about the best approach to resolving the problem both now and in the future. In particular, are there other options than building a new parking garage and pursuing an “aggressive” paid parking strategy?

The simple answer is a resounding “yes.”

One alternative to building a garage, originally proposed in the comprehensive 2002 parking committee report (posted on the town website), would be to pursue satellite parking. That has a number of distinct advantages over a parking garage.

Whereas a garage would not provide enough spaces to solve the summer parking shortage either now or in the future, satellite parking would provide more than enough spaces to address demand.

Satellite parking also would cost far less and require millions fewer dollars in town subsidy. Moreover, satellite parking would reduce rather than increase the number of vehicles in town – less traffic and congestion. Satellite parking and other possible alternatives have yet to be seriously considered and vetted.

It is surprising that the town is pursuing an aggressive paid parking strategy, initially, with the goal of generating revenue needed to pay for the parking program and subsidize construction of a new parking garage.

Outside consultants recommended establishing paid parking lots downtown and installing curbside street meters on several downtown streets.

The town subsequently decided to install meters from one end of town to the other. The number of street metered spaces under the consultants plan was roughly 250. The number being pursued by the town is now over 400.

Paid parking lots make sense as a revenue generator to pay for the developing parking program (exclusive of a garage). Revenue from this source would more than cover satellite parking, a resident permit parking program, enforcement, etc. However, meters on our downtown streets are another matter. Without knowing whether a garage is needed or not, this seems excessive and putting the cart before the horse.

Wouldn’t it be prudent to first determine the best solution to the problem before going to such an extreme?

Even if it is determined that a parking garage is needed, there are drawbacks to cluttering our streets with meters to subsidize it. As argued previously in an Islander editorial, meters are tacky, unsightly and a nuisance that would detract from the charm and attractiveness of our lovely seaside village.

And they would be an inconvenience for residents.

Bar Harbor is not like a city, and let’s keep it that way. Aesthetics and character matter!

The Islander is right. Let’s take a collective deep breath, fully evaluate all options and then decide on a course of action that is best for the town, it’s residents and future generations.

Don Murphy

Bar Harbor

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