With winter officially over, the City is considering a 57% increase on towing rates, including for cars towed during a snow emergency. Police Chief David Mara and the aldermen explained in today’s Union Leader that the City’s tow rates are well below those of other cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley, and that raising the rates would bring them up “to industry standards.”
Getting illegally parked off the streets is important, but the City is missing the point when it comes to snow emergencies. Manchester isn’t Bedford or Londonderry; it isn’t even Concord–it’s a much larger and denser city, with many more residents with no off-street parking. Just as it makes sense to raise the parking rates to keep up with industry standards, it makes sense for Manchester to look to other mid-sized cities with limited off-street parking for a better way to handle snow emergencies.
Cambridge, Mass. has only a few thousand fewer people than Manchester in an area less than half the size, and with similarly limited off-street parking spots, and similarly narrow side streets. But there, parking is allowed on most side streets during a snow emergency, with parking banned altogether only on major roads, and on one side of most secondary roads. This keeps the busiest roadways clear, while allowing smaller plows to handle side streets and keep people from scrambling to find a place to park. Sure, cars are plowed in, but at least they’re not towed as much.
St. Paul, Minn., with its grid of streets might be an even better example for Manchester. There during a snow emergency, parking is prohibited entirely on major roads and downtown, but allowed on at least one side of most side streets. Manchester, with its similar grid, could do something like what is done in St. Paul: allow parking on both sides of wider side streets, and on only one side of narrower ones, while prohibiting parking downtown, on major roads, and on especially narrow or important secondary streets.
Manchester (with the help of the state) needs to invest more in public transit, and while that’s mostly a different topic, it’s important here too: how are people in neighborhoods like Rimmon Heights or the Hollow, where there are fewer off-street parking options, supposed to drop their car off at a downtown garage after 10pm and get back to pick it up by 6am (the hours when the Victory Garage is free during a snow emergency) when the MTA buses don’t run at those hours? While LivableMHT absolutely supports better public transit options, the easy answer here is to allow people to leave their cars on lesser used side streets during a snow emergency, and to plow those streets using smaller equipment. As the Hippo pointed out in raising the issue 10 years ago, it’s done plenty of other places; it can be done in Manchester.