Monday, March 8, 2010

Paid Parking?

Interesting online discussions at the Daily News site worth checking out here:

At the City's website, you can find a compilation of many parking studies:

Especially worth checking out is the 2005 report:

The purpose of this study was:

The City of Newburyport, Massachusetts proposes to create a paid off-street parking program. The purpose of this program is to more efficiently manage limited public parking resources. In addition, the program expects to generate revenue to provide funds for the construction of additional public parking. Specifically, the City anticipates that parking revenues would be used to offset capital and soft costs associated with a structured public parking facility in the Central Business District.

This study has been prepared to assist the City in its efforts to identify the scope of the off-street paid parking program. This report provides the information necessary to develop sound public policy for the creation of the program. It is also intended to provide a blueprint for the implementation of the plan.
I have heard from a couple of constituents on 'paid parking' including the argument that it will 'destroy the downtown' economy. The old days of parking meters get brought up. My sense is that the downtown was stagnant back in the day, not because of parking meters, but because many downtown buildings were abandoned as a nation got in cars and shopped at plazas and malls.

My thinking at the moment via a few random thoughts:

  • If we want more park on the waterfront (and I do), we will need to find substitute spaces and/or better manage the existing off-street parking spots and on-street spots.
  • Before building a garage, we ought to be certain that we need it.
  • Paid parking obviously would bring in net revenue to the City (see the end of the 2005 report for those estimates) and can assist with debt service on a garage (assuming we build one) or capital and operating expense for public waterfront space.
  • If priced correctly and with the correct time limits, paid parking can end shopper cruising around the block (tell me you haven't buzzed around a few times to get a spot in front of Pizza Factory for that 3 minute pickup) and downtown workers moving their cars every few hours. (Late note: a reader correctly observed that I originally wrote 'Famous' Pizza which is not downtown. Mea culpa.)
  • I don't see how you can charge in municipal lots and not charge for street parking.
  • Downtown worker and senior 'discounts' can be built in. Parking spillover into residential areas can be addressed. Snow emergency parking can be addressed.
  • We need better overall transportation planning. Take a look at a passing and often empty Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority #51 bus and you will know that we need better planning. We need better connections between the commuter rail station, the Park and Ride on Route 95, and new/old ways of getting around like bicycles. For an example of a community which has embraced a more comprehensive approach to transportation and parking, we could learn from Portsmouth's approach, in particular how they operate a 'seasonal downtown loop.'
It would be great to get your comments via this blog. Just hit the 'comment' button.

Thanks, Ed


Anonymous said...

Famous Pizza isn't downtown. also, as a taxpayer, we shouldn't be asked to pay to use our own parking lots.

Bubba said...


I don't mind paying to park downtown because I realize that every dollar I pay it will be matched a hundred fold by non-residents.

Noli nothi permittere te terere !

Jerry A. Mullins said...

I 100% support this initiative and your initial comments right-on. There can not be a parking garage unless we have paid parking downtown. We will also be unable to support an open, maritime park on the Waterfront due to loss of parking spaces. Plus, Bubba is correct, non-residents will fuel it.

Has anyone seen how shabby things are downtown? Paid parking can fuel improvements that don't ever have to be filtered through the grubby hands of the State.

The worse part of the old paid system were the ugly parking meters. The new system will not detract from the aesthetics of our downtown.

Anonymous said...

we already pay taxes to park in those lots, making residents pay for the "privilege" of using their own lots to do their business downtown is crazy. you think things are shabby now, wait until people stop shopping downtown.

Bubba said...

Providing free parking to non-residents is crazier.

Anonymous said...

simple solution. resident stickers. for all residents not just those that live downtown.

alex said...

Great comments Ed.

AS you said, paid parking was not the cause of old downtowns problems. At the time, people were leaving old downtowns for shopping plazas and malls nationwide. That trend is in many ways reversing. Places like Newburyport have a charm and community that can not be found in a mall. Residents and tourists alike know this. People come to our historic seaport for different reasons than they would come to a mall. And when they do, they probably find it shocking that we dedicate the VAST majority of our waterfront to the storage of cars and boats. It's shameful.

I think we do need a garage. A garage enables the removal of cars from the waterfront. It allows us to finally get to the job of reclaiming the best part of what makes our city special, and historically significant. It allows the expansion of park / open space. It allows the expansion of private development that will grow our city and fund such such investments. It allows for an enhanced and expanded boardwalk and the integration of new public transit systems.

Like roads and water or power systems, parking is an infrastructure improvement that fuels progress. Of course like all such things it is a chicken or egg scenario. If you build it, will they come? I suggest they will, but that doesn't preclude a public / private partnership in any garage.

There are some who don't se the need for a garage. They think it will be an out of scale blight on the downtown. I think that with good design and the inclusion of retail at its base that a parking garage need not be an eyesore. I would argue that the real tragedy of the downtown is the low density sprawl of empty cars scattered in dirt lots throughout the best part of our seaport.

Time to reclaim the waterfront from cars!