Finding a satisfactory solution to Manchester's parking problems that pleases the town's businesses and residents may seem next to impossible, but it isn't. The town council is now faced with two very unhappy groups that want to reopen this sticky issue.
Residents of Main Street are unhappy over the town's current rules limiting on-street parking to two hours during business hours. Most of these residents don't have access to off-street parking. As a result, they must move their cars every two hours in order to avoid parking tickets.
Business owners claim these two-hour limitations are not working because customers can't find parking in front of their shops when they need it. Some businesses would like to see the parking limited to 30 minutes, as it was two years ago.
As long as the town government tries to solve the problem with the existing number of parking spaces, the entire effort is doomed to fail. Both shoppers and residents have to park their cars somewhere, and Manchester's streets don't provide enough spots for everyone who needs them.
Since residents generally leave their cars parked for much longer periods of time than shoppers do, the council ought to focus on a solution that addresses their needs. If residents can move their cars off the streets, there will be less competition -- particularly in the evening -- for the limited number of parking spots on Main Street.
Apartments that don't have off-street parking spots for all their occupants are at the root of the current problem. People living in these units have little choice but to park in public spaces on Main Street. Creating off-street parking for these occupants may alleviate the shortage for current residents. The town has wisely required that houses converted into apartments must have ample parking spaces for all the units. If they don't, the town can deny the owners permission to subdivide the houses.
Business owners may think that if people can't park directly in front of stores, they will shop elsewhere. Suburban shopping malls are successful even though many customers have to hike across vast expanses of asphalt to get to the shops. Manchester can extract itself from its parking morass by providing off-street parking for shoppers and residents alike. It has worked elsewhere.