Salem City Council Approves New Snow Emergency Parking Policy

The Salem City Council approved a recent change to the snow emergency parking policy for city garages.

Salem City Council Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.
Salem City Council Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.

At their meeting at City Hall Thursday night, Salem city councilors unanimously approved a recent change to the city's parking policy during snow emergencies. 

In an effort to simplify parking in city garages during snow emergencies, the city recently changed its parking rate during emergencies to a flat fee of $5 for any period of time up to 24 hours.

"This came about because parking used to be free in the garages during storms and they were being filled up so quickly that people living downtown would come home from work and there would be no spots for them," councilor Arthur Sargent said, adding, "This is designed to prevent that - so that there will still be spaces for people when they came home."

Sargent also pointed out that he would support raising the rate if it turns out a $5 fee isn't enough incentive to keep garage spaces open at least until downtown residents get home from work on the day of snow emergencies.

"If people still come home and find those spaces filled maybe we'll have to make it $6," Sargent said. "This was always something that was going to be in flux." 

In addition to the new flat rate, the policy stipulates that vehicles parked in city garages during a snow emergency should be removed from the garage by the close of business on the day the snow emergency ends. 

Vehicles left in a garage after the close of business on the day that a snow emergency concludes will begin to accrue charges at the garage's regular hourly parking rate.

What do you think of the new policy? Have you had trouble finding parking in city garages during snowstorms? 

Let us know in the comments section below

Yolanda Douglass January 10, 2014 at 07:20 AM
This is either really about the garages making money not people who live downtown having parking or we are a city who says if you can afford the fee we have a privilege for you and if you can't we are taking away your privilege and tough luck. Just say "In an effort to boost revenue the garages will now have a $5 fee during snow emergencies". We, The people of Salem, can handle the truth.
Brian T January 10, 2014 at 08:26 AM
I'm confused to what exactly was the change made on Thursday night. Seems they only discussed raising the rate. I for one work evenings so I always have trouble finding parking around midnight when I get home. Typically the garage has always been full and I even have a special permit for the Congress street Shetland Park lot but that seems overly full as well.
Michelle January 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM
What are the town councillors going to do when the 'already full' free snow lots are beyond capacity?
carol cudmore January 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM
i have to agree with yolanda!!!!!!
KlassySalem January 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM
They actually just lowered the snow emergency rate in the parking garages for most snow emergencies. Previously, it was $.50 an hour, so if you drove in at 4 PM, and out at 4 PM the following day your bill was $12. If you can escape the downtown a little some of the other snow emergency lots have plenty of capacity.
Leanne Schild January 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM
KlassySalem is right! We have no driveway and two cars that we have to remove from the street and the first snow emergency this year we spent $24 on both combined. This is definitely a welcomed change. That being said, we still don't have enough space in the garages because I tried to move our cars into them for this last storm at 9:00am (snow emergency wasn't supposed to start until 6:00pm) and both garages were already full. What annoys me is that I have seen some Salem residents park in the garage who DO have driveways simply because they don't want to shovel. I think those of us who can prove we have no other options (a pass given out by city hall after looking at property docs) but must remove our cars should get preference by being able to park at the $5 while others should have to pay the regular rate.
Owen Boss (Editor) January 10, 2014 at 11:16 AM
That's a really good point Leanne! I think the situation you're describing is exactly what the city is trying to prevent.
Erin Cyr January 10, 2014 at 11:27 AM
What if people can't shovel due to injury, age, infirmity, etc? Do they need to go and get special permission from the city before a snow storm because people purchased a home with no driveway need a space later? I know this city has lots of homes with no designated parking, but there are all of the school parking lots that are available as well as the garages (and the school lots are free!). I am lucky enough (or smart enough) to have purchased a house with a driveway, so I haven't had to go through the stress of hoping there will be a space available in a snow emergency, but I have to ask...Is it possible to plan ahead and get your cars into a school lot and walk, ask a friend or neighbor, or even get a cab home? I am really asking because I don't know how fast they fill up. Are there truly more cars in the city than there are spaces in a snow emergency?
Leanne Schild January 10, 2014 at 12:03 PM
We've dealt with the age and infirmity issues ON TOP OF having mandatory removal of our cars. And, no, there are not enough snow emergency parking options in some areas (we have no school lots less then a mile from us). And after 8 years of dealing with this, we've done all of the above including asking neighbors, taking cabs etc. And yes, the garage spaces fill up as soon as any mention of a snowstorm - in the case of last Thursday they were full 9 hours BEFORE the snow emergency even went into effect. But it's definitely just part of city living and definitely our fault for buying a house that we could afford (and we loved) that has no driveway. However, I still think the pass could help relieve some of the frustrations for those of us who really have no other options.
Joseph Edwards January 10, 2014 at 12:24 PM
The rate has been reduced. Why the complaints? The world does not owe you a parking space.
Nancy Gilberg January 10, 2014 at 12:28 PM
There is always plenty of room in the Witchcraft Heights school parking lot. Sometimes we are the only cars there, and at most, I've seen maybe half a dozen cars.
KlassySalem January 10, 2014 at 12:30 PM
^^ That's definitely true. There were maybe six cars there after the big storm last week.
Heather Famico January 10, 2014 at 01:35 PM
@Leanne I mentioned your frustration at the meeting last night -- that during storms parking garages fill up and that they are used by those who don't necessarily need to park in them
Leanne Schild January 10, 2014 at 01:45 PM
Thanks Heather! We still love living living downtown in spite of the snow emergency inconveniences and we do appreciate the new flat $5 rate as mentioned in my first comment. I'm not trying to get special treatment - just wish others (with driveways) would understand that some downtown residents don't really have other options. Walking 1 mile+ from near the library to Witchcraft Heights (often with young children in tow) after a snowstorm isn't really a very good option if the garages are full.
KlassySalem January 10, 2014 at 01:57 PM
Does the Gallows Hill park lot fill up?
Chris January 10, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Why aren't the Church street lots snow parking? I love how after the last storm the city did a beautiful job of plowing the Church street lots, but in doing so they buried the sidewalks all around them, making it awesome for people that try to walk around town.
Dan Faust January 10, 2014 at 04:04 PM
We have a big parking problem in Salem during snow storms and OCTOBER and we need to work on a solution.
Doren Berge January 10, 2014 at 04:17 PM
As a downtown resident of 8 years I can honestly say that snow emergencies are a nightmare for us. My wife often gets home from work around 8pm. I often get home at 2 or 3 in the morning. An annual garage pass used to cost $300 in 2005. Now it's up to $700. Our two car household pays $1400 a year for parking (on top of an obscene property tax bill). This is not an "inconvenience", it's a major problem for downtown, residential taxpayers. The fact that the Council is considering the issue is encouraging. I don't know what the solution is but the problem is getting worse each year.
john January 10, 2014 at 04:56 PM
Who buys a home with no place to park in the winter? Residential taxpayers(like me)have a place to park but you are asking for all taxpayers to help those who bought homes without parking. Do you have a pool I can use in the summer?
Doren Berge January 10, 2014 at 05:31 PM
John - please consider that many taxpayers and downtown residents don't have children yet all taxpayers pay for the school system and other services including snow removal. That's how it works. Without downtown taxpayer revenue your tax burden would be considerably higher. Downtown residents are good for the city. I think you've missed the point. No one here is asking anything from you. But you are welcome to use my pool anytime. It's down at Forest River Park.
john January 10, 2014 at 05:56 PM
I am not sure how you can compare the school system to people who buy a home with no parking. You are correct that we all pay for schools and we also pay for access to public parks but in addition we get charged extra to use the pool. If you don't have a parking space ,find your own.
Doren Berge January 10, 2014 at 06:11 PM
Again - respectfully - I think you are missing the point. I do pay extra for parking. But when it snows we loose our parking. Parking that we "pay extra" for. That's the problem. No one here is asking for free parking. No one is asking anything from you. But if we pay for parking place we should be able to come home from work in a snowstorm and park. Because we paid "extra" for it...
peter crowley January 11, 2014 at 01:13 PM
In my opinion, it is not the city's responsibility to provide parking spaces. If you have a car, it is your responsibility to find and pay for parking. The city should charge whatever amount maximizes the revenue from the garages. Why should people without cars subsidize those who have them? Cars are private property, and I don't see any public good from subsidizing them. However, I think that Doren may a legitimate gripe if an annual pass for the garage cannot be used on certain nights. Does the city state that the pass provides a guarantee of a space?


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