Here is the Status Quo:
We have THREE separate parking approaches.
City----Street and lots are free, timed, with limited enforcement; Green Street lot is usually jammed not just in the summer but all year. Employees downtown are frequently doing the three hour shuffle.
NRA----Parking is free 75% of the year, it’s dirt, and priced astronomically high during the summer, in fact it’s so high that few locals will even bother to use it during the warm months.
Waterfront Trust---Parking is paid 24/7 and rarely used except when the NRA is charging an arm and a leg or the NRA is full during the warmer months or when you're desperate to get into the Black Cow and you have no choice.
In September 2010, I had sent a survey via email to 107 Ward 4 constituents.
These are constituents with whom I've had contact in my 3 years on the Council. They are not necessarily friends or supporters; in fact, many of them have had disagreements with me; they are of all political persuasions and ages; most have been in Newburyport for at least 15 years.
I received 56 responses to the survey which is over a 50% response rate.
I don't claim to be a statistician. 56 opinions out of approximately 1900 registered Ward 4 voters might not seem like much. But I compare this to pollsters, such as Suffolk University which accurately predicted both the Scott Brown-Martha Coakley race and the Charlie Baker-Deval Patrick race with a survey sample of 500 out of 4.1 million registered voters. So I think my survey has at least some validity. The results are here:
I want a parking program that has four related elements:
1. net revenue gain for the City (and I have no opposition to the NRA and Waterfront Trust also sharing in this net revenue since they also use their income to provide public benefits)
2. a mechanism for the City to better manage and direct parking demand utilizing the available supply in a way that will provide better access to residents, visitors and downtown employees
3. a unified approach which allows for operational simplicity to the greatest degree possible and allows for future modifications to the parking program. A unified approach allows the City to manage the parking program and allows the NRA and Waterfront Trust to perform their public missions
4. and FAIRNESS---so that local residents and downtown employees bear as little of the brunt of this change.
I am not in favor of all elements of the current proposal, but I will support it as the best way to move us forward.
The benefits for residents:
1. additional revenue for the City to maintain the services that we need with most of that coming from tourists for whom paid parking is the expectation since it's in place from Boston to Salem to Rockport to Gloucester to Salisbury to Hampton Beach to Portsmouth. With talk on the Council of lowering the Resident Pass to a nominal price, the burden on locals will be even less.
2. access to downtown parking supply so that all the parking lots are used not just a few. Again on-street spots are free all the time. You can get your cup of coffee at Richdale or your pizza at the Factory without being charged. Counterintuitively, creating a parking program and encouraging more parkers to use the underutilized waterfront lots in the short-term provides the mechanism to eventually decrease the number of waterfront parking spots and allow that area to be developed as a public space with more green and perhaps a building or two.
It should be an interesting night.