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Updated Hanover Parking Meters Receive Mixed Reviews

 One of nearly 200 parking meters that allow users to pay with credit or debit cards debuted in Hanover on Wednesday.   Valley News Photo

One of nearly 200 parking meters that allow users to pay with credit or debit cards debuted in Hanover on Wednesday. Valley News Photo Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — Some people appreciated their convenience, others missed the old ones, and a few were too short to see them.

About 200 new parking meters debuted in downtown Hanover on Wednesday night and faced their first full day of customers on Thursday. They offered motorists the option to pay using debit or credit cards but carried rate increases — in some areas double the old rates.

The new meters and their installation cost $210,000, said Hanover Police Lt. Patrick O’Neill, the parking division supervisor.

One of the new customers was Phil Hession, a Dartmouth College junior who used his card to buy two hours’ worth of parking time in a South Main Street space. Including the 20-cent fee for using a card, which offsets transaction charges accrued by the town from processing companies and the meter company, the parking spot that would have cost him $1 last week set him back $2.20 on Thursday.

Hession didn’t mind, though — in fact, he said he was “very happy” to have the new meters so he didn’t have to carry around coins, which he used only to pay the parking meters. Paying $2.20 is a bargain, he said, compared with the $10 ticket he could have received had he parked without feeding coins into the old meter.

“For me, that’s still a lot better,” he said.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the biggest complaint her office has heard about the meters is, perhaps unexpectedly, their height. Although the old metal poles remained, the new meter heads are slightly longer and feature upward facing displays. Some motorists “who are on the lower-in-height side” had trouble reading the computerized screens, Griffin said.

The town has a fix: Employees will be out on Tuesday with electric saws to cut down the metal poles and reinstall the new meters. O’Neill said poles will be cut so that the height between the ground and the bottom of the meter head is about three feet.

“You know things are good,” Griffin said, “when the complaints you’re receiving are, ‘Can we make the poles a little shorter, please?’ ”

Griffin has also heard from a few motorists who are now interested in purchasing one of the new long-term parking permits along lower Lebanon Street and Hovey Lane, all part of a parking overhaul package that the Selectboard passed in June.

The 40 new spaces cost $35 for a 30-day period. Griffin said the combination of increased rates downtown and the availability of long-term spaces is meant to encourage employees of downtown businesses to park away from the core downtown area, thereby freeing up spaces for customers.

At least 25 of the long-term parking spots were still available on Thursday afternoon, she said.

“We are starting to hear from the folks who have tended to be our regular meter feeders (that the new price structure) makes rates too expensive,” she said.

That includes Truly Alvarenga, who commutes from Enfield to That Little Spot of Red, a paper and gifts store on South Main Street. Feeding the meter $1 an hour while she’s at work essentially cuts her paycheck by 10 percent, and she and shop owner Laura Lichiello said they were considering buying one of the 30-day permits for her.

And although Lichiello and her husband have a 30-day permit of their own, Lichiello said Thursday she wouldn’t be celebrating the arrival of the new meters. Since the Selectboard began discussing a parking overhaul at the beginning of the year, Lichiello has worried that increasing rates won’t free up spaces, as the town intended, but will instead drive customers away.

Customers already tell her that they’ll drive around the block once and leave if they don’t find a spot. Now that rates have doubled from 50 cents to $1 in the two parking areas nearest her shop — Main Street and the municipal lot behind Town Hall — Lichiello said she fears her customers will start going elsewhere to buy their cards and paper products.

“In terms of customers, depending on where they want to park or are used to parking, (the new rates) will definitely have an effect,” she said.

As she was parking in front of Lou’s Restaurant on South Main Street on Thursday afternoon, Hanover resident Gwen Planet was caught off guard by the new meters and rate increases as she entered the eatery to purchase a pair of pies. But while she said she was “mildly disappointed” by the new price structure — “It was so nice that it was the one place where I could park (for a few minutes) for a nickel,” she said — she was more put off by the new “high-tech” look.

“There was something nice about the quaint old ones,” she said.

Planet said she can picture using her card in the future, as she has done in New York and Montreal. And while Main Street is one of the areas where rates doubled to $1 an hour, the new rates “certainly (are) not going to keep me from coming,” she added, pointing out that it still costs her only 15 cents to park for nine minutes.

“Where else can you get anything for 15 cents?” she asked.

Hourly parking rate increases at the new meters are as follows:

∎ South Main Street, two-hour meters, 50 cents to $1.

∎ Municipal Lot 1 behind Town Hall, three-hour meters, 50 cents to $1.

∎ Upper Lebanon Street, two-hour meters, 50 cents to 75 cents.

∎ Bank of America Deck, 50 cents to 75 cents for three-hour meters, 25 cents to 35 cents for 10-hour meters.

∎ School Street, 10-hour meters, 25 cents to 35 cents.

∎ Allen Street Ext., 10-hour meters, 25 cents to 35 cents.

O’Neill said he expects multi-space kiosks to be upgraded in two to three weeks. Hourly parking rate increases there are as follows:

∎ Marshall Lot, 10-hour kiosk, 25 cents to 35 cents.

∎ Municipal Lot 7, 10-hour kiosk, 25 cents to 35 cents.

∎ Municipal Lot 6, two-hour kiosk, 50 cents to 75 cents.

∎ South End Dartmouth Green, two-hour kiosks, 50 cents to 75 cents.

∎ South Block Lot, two-hour kiosk, 50 cents to 75 cents.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.