NEWBURYPORT — Starting next week, there will be a big change to parking on the city's waterfront.
Next Tuesday, visitors looking to park in the lot owned by the Waterfront Trust will have to pay — 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all holidays. The effort is expected to bring in thousands of dollars in revenue, not to mention the revenue from parking tickets issued to non-payers.
The Waterfront Trust's parking lot is the paved waterfront lot off Merrimac Street, in the vicinity of the Black Cow restaurant and the Chamber of Commerce office.
A number of city leaders have said some form of paid parking is in the city's future, as it looks to re-configure its current parking system, including the long-discussed option of a parking garage.
Under the new system at the Waterfront Trust's lot, rates will be 50 cents an hour on weekdays and $1 an hour on weekends. The funds will be used to maintain the area and the Waterfront Trust property.
There are 65 total spaces, some of which are used by businesses through arrangements with the Waterfront Trust. The Black Cow has its own parking.
Currently, a parking system on the waterfront lots, shared by the Waterfront Trust and the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, charges $5 to park on weekends and $8 on holidays or Yankee Homecoming weekends. The rest of the time, parking there is free. That arrangement will end next week, and the white parking booth will be removed.
Yesterday, a technician from Cale Parking Systems installed the solar-powered Multi-Space Meter — a black ticket kiosk with a blue "P" for parking decal on the side — in the middle of the lot. Signs will be put up to direct drivers to the machine.
The system is the same as those used in Manchester, Portsmouth and Hampton Beach in New Hampshire.
When drivers arrive in the Waterfront Trust lot and park in a space, they will go to the kiosk and insert coins or credit cards (dollar bills aren't accepted) to pay for their desired length of time. A printed receipt, showing the entry and exit times, will then need to be displayed on the car's dashboard.
The city's parking clerk will patrol the lot and issue a fine to drivers who stay past their paid time. The $10 fine will go to the city's budget.
A solar panel on top of the system charges the battery and keeps the machine working, said Noah Cruzan, a technician with Cale Parking Systems. It's very rare that the machine is affected by the weather.
The Waterfront Trust paid $12,000 for the parking machine, chairman Cliff Goudey said yesterday, adding that the Waterfront Trust expects to generate enough revenue during the first year of paid parking to make up that cost, even with transaction and monthly fees.
"We'll do so much better (with this)," he said.
As the Waterfront Trust plows the parking spaces and maintains the lot, Goudey said, he would expect drivers to continue to choose to park there on the paved asphalt through the winter, despite the fee, rather than heading over to the dirt lots nearby.
"It's better than parking on icy mud," he said.
Goudey said the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is considering adopting a similar pay-and-display parking system for their dirt lots.