Friday, October 23, 2009

Parking & etc.

The other day I was at an event where people were talking about parking in our city.

It's always interesting to me when people say - as they were here - that there's never anywhere to park downtown.

This week I've been downtown perhaps 3 times - and all 3 times I've found somewhere to park immediately.

Twice I parked across the street from City Hall on Pleasant St., where I find there usually is at least one space during business hours.

This morning I parked in the east NRA lot, which is where I usually park unless they are charging.

Sure sometimes there are potholes and a lot of puddles of water involved, but part of that lot is paved.

After some questioning, one of the people from the event I referenced above revealed that what she was looking for was a space right outside where she was going to shop.

Now that's another kettle of fish, isn't it?

She takes her neighbor shopping and the other woman can't walk very far.

Well, my mother is like that as well - and what we do is drop her off outside the store, find a place to park and meet her at the store. When we're ready to leave, we go get the car and pick her up outside the store.

This seems to be more a case of laziness than anything a parking garage or satellite parking could ever solve.

I admit that I rarely go downtown during an "event," but during Yankee Homecoming, or the River concerts or something, there was an important meeting at City Hall. I was forced to park all the way up by Kelley School!

What is that, 4 blocks away?

I lived in Boston for 20 years and never owned a car that whole time. If I needed to go somewhere in town, I mostly walked there. I walked to work. If I needed to go somewhere outside of town, I took the 'T.'

We don't have a rapid transit system here, of course (wouldn't that be amusing, though?), but I found that on trips where I was carrying stuff, taking a taxi was the easiest solution. Certainly cheaper than operating a car and trying to find a parking spot for said car.

That being said, I have found that I have gone from walking everywhere (or relying on mass transit) to pretty much driving everywhere. Even when there was bus service out here on the island that would have taken me right into town, I never used it.

Now it's gone due to a lack of participation.

Shame on me ... shame on us.

And don't forget that this garage everyone is talking about is basically a bus station with parking spaces above it.

Forget about analogies to Portsmouth; this is not Portsmouth. That city has a much bigger downtown with many more restaurants and businesses.

I have had a long discussion (about a year ago) with James Shanley about parking. He had some good and innovative ideas. He has studied this matter, along with others, extensively.

Both candidates have positions with which I both agree and disagree. You know I've said I'm not endorsing anyone for mayor and I'm not trying to do that now.

I've watched both these people closely in City Council and over the course of this blog I've noted things I've noticed about most of the councillors, including these two.

The debate is on the PortMedia website.

I don't envy you the choice you have to make.


Bubba said...

I think Wellesley serves as a better model for Newburyport to emulate. Wellesley has adopted a market-based system.

They have high-rate/short-duration meters (*gasp*), in front of their downtown shops. This typically results in free spaces for high turnover businesses.

Just behind the downtown they have medium term parking at a slightly reduced rate.

And right beyond that one finds the low-cost all-day lot where the daily rate is about the same as the hourly rate of the on street parking.

Of course, this will never fly here, where compromise is a dirty word.

Gillian Swart said...

I like that model. Thanks, Bubba.

Dick Monahan said...

When I first got here, I used to walk downtown to get a paper in the AM. (Come winter, I subscribed. :-)) One sunny day, about half way there, I said "Hello" to a guy who was getting into his car. I was greatly surprised to see him pull up and double park in front of Richdale as I arrived there. I can't imagine going to the trouble to get into the car for such a short walk. Of course, I also moved here from Boston.

And, I agree with the Wellesley-style parking system.

Anonymous said...

How about using Newburyport as a model for other communities! Look at how vibrant, warm, charming, unique and inviting it is. Let's screw it up with paid parking. Let's change what we know already works...and drive some more businesses out of town. Who cares if you have to search a little for a spot during festivals. The key is to bring people in not price them out.

Ari Herzog said...

I'm aligned with James Shanley that a parking garage is the last thing to look at, but on the subject of parking models, look at Boston.

Specifically, look at the 500-space "Shopper's Garage" on Beach Street in Chinatown. The daily rate is $20, but if you have the ticket validated by area shops and restaurants easily identified by window blue P displays, you can park for up to 2.5 hours for $3. Best deal in the city.

Gillian Swart said...

Anonymous, as a person who came from Boston to Newburyport to shop partly because there was readily available FREE parking, I agree with you as well.

But I think everyone running is in the same line as regards some kind of paid parking.

If we're going to get slammed, it might as well be with something somewhat palatable, no?

All those shops I came here to patronize back then, btw, are mostly all gone now ... I'm seeing shades of Quincy Marketplace/Faneuil Hall/Newbury St. happening here. I used to get the neatest and most unique gifts for people in those places.

It's very sad for me.

Ari Herzog said...

One more thing on a garage (or a lot). I mentioned the Chinatown garage model. I think a daily or weekly--or monthly!--rate would be heartily accepted by residents. Especially those residents who are required to move their cars off the streets every time the blue lights blink.

Don't move it to the Prince or Harris or Green lots. Move it to a dedicated location where you pay $X a month, with 75% going to a revolving parking fund and 25% going to the private firm managing it. Or some metric like that.

But, do it as a part of a larger transportation plan so there are shuttles etc to move people around.

If residents tell me they'd be game for paying money to store their cars off-site, it's worth a serious investigation.

Bubba said...

The daily rate is $20, but if you have the ticket validated by area shops and restaurants easily identified by window blue P displays, you can park for up to 2.5 hours for $3. Best deal in the city.

And that's exactly what Karp will do if he's forced to build his own garage on WW - except he will only validate for NED business tenants.

Gillian Swart said...

Thanks, Ari.

I was talking to Brian Derrivan this week and he said, "We need to be more proactive and not reactive," or words to that effect.

He was talking about the landfill, but it goes for the whole city. Nobody does anything until it's a reaction - then the immediate crisis goes away and the issue is tabled.

There needs to be a plan - for A-frame signs, for outside seating/alcohol consumption, for parking, for the landfill, for wind turbines (to mention current hot spots); and while we finally were forced to get plans for the beach, it was forced.

Plans should have been there all along, don't you think?

Bubba said...

Oh my God, the resident ALL DAY rate in Wellesley is $1.50 and $2.50 for non-residents - the horror !!!!!!!! They even have debit cards and merchant placards !!! Oh the humanity !!!!

Dick Monahan said...

Anonymous, at least some the downtown merchants are really in favor of charging on the street. That increases turnover, which is good for them. Now, too many of those spaces are full of long-term parkers.

anon2 said...

there is no way the city should ask its taxpayers to pay to park in their own town. the only way i, and most people i think, would support paid parking is with resident stickers that allow us to park for free. the same should go for employees that work downtown. further, can we get over the idea that there is a parking problem? you can park on any side street a block away from state street and not have any trouble finding a spot, the NRA lots are never full, and turn over is generally pretty efficient. Finally, using portsmouth as a model for a garage is absurd, Newburyport's downtown is essentially one block (state street and plesant street), that hardly calls for an elaborate parking plan.

Ari Herzog said...

FYI, anon2, several taxpayers approached me with a desire to pay to park. And I don't mean 50 cents here or there, but hundreds of dollars a year. You'd be surprised.

Anonymous said...

no one is stopping them from paying right now, but i guarantee they aren't writing checks to the city...

Anonymous said...

There are two benefits to paid parking: revenue (which is overemphasized if you ask me)and parking allocation.

If everything is free, there's no incentive to park 200 yards away from where you want to go.

A paid parking arrangement puts values on spaces. If done right (pricing and time limits), the person running into Richdale gets a spot working for them and the person working downtown for 8 hours gets a spot that works for them.