Fresh focus on Center parking draws unanimous selectmen support

New technology, demand pricing, Mass. Ave. meters to change landscape

Out with the "infernal machines" and in with a fresh tech approach to parking, at least in Arlington.

That was the main message as selectmen voted, 4-0, Monday, Oct. 6, to support the town manager's recommendations for in and near Arlington Center. In brief, the town plans to:

Board of Selectmen logo, Jan. 23, 2013

* Install meters in 450 new places, and remove them from many current spots;

* Introduce demand pricing; that is, it will cost you more for high-demand spots and less for others with lower demand; and

* Establish a parking-benefit district.

Selectmen Joe Curro and Dan Dunn were nearly joyous in anticipation that the long-criticized meters in the Water Street and Russell Common lot would be junked. Dunn called the prone-to-break meters "infernal machines" and reminded the audience he had run in 2011 on vow to replace them.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said requests for proposals for new meters would be issued in a few weeks.

Town Treasurer Stephen Gilligan, who is also the parking officer, said Town Meeting last spring approved funds for new meters, which he called kiosks, but the manager this summer put a hold on moving ahead with that, so the selectmen could weigh ideas suggested by consultant Nelson\Nygaard. Gilligan said he thought further consideration of issues raised in the parking study would likely delay getting new meters by late spring.

Chapdelaine said the town will move ahead now.

Curro said that from what he sees among municipalities across the nation that want to boost their economies, parking considerations of the kind Nelson\Nygaard had devised are key. He said he is "very enthusiastic" about the parking-benefit district.

Praise, concern from Regent

Under such a district, Arlington plans to direct parking revenue generated through meters and passes for maintenance, security and improvements. A yet-to-be-established parking committee would put a parking-management system into effect and offer advice about the projects supported with funds from the benefit district.

"Hallelujah!" said Leland Stein, manager of the Regent Theatre, and then he went beyond the board's discussion of the manager's proposals.

He suggested that during the period when the old meters are removed and the new installed, the public should park free in the town main town lots. "It would create a lot of goodwill," he said.

As for a list of issues that the manager said still need vetting -- including handicap parking, bus stops and loading zones -- Stein said he thought these had been discussed thoroughly already.

As to the loading zone near the Regent, he pointed out that a truck had recently backed up and damaged the theater's marquee, at a time when two film festivals are due and Regent management cannot afford repairs.

Here are the main aspects of the manager's proposal, which four selectmen supported unanimously (Kevin Greeley was absent):

PARKING PRICING

    $1/hour* four-hour parking: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (* first 15 minutes free)

    50 cents/hour unlimited parking: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    Free four-hour parking: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

DEMAND PRICING

WHERE IS THE PARKING DISTRICT?

To see a map of the district, as well as full text of the manager's report, click here >> (scroll down to see the map)

The boundaries of the district extend from Jason to Academy

to Maple to Swan Place, east along the Minuteman Bikeway to Avon Place and Broadway and then Warren, Chestnut, Russell, Central and Mill. Color codes show where the pricing applies.

TECHNOLOGY

The manager wrote: "We request that the board adopt the parking management (fee) structure as described on the attached map as a starting point. By adopting this structure, town staff and the PIGC will be enabled to begin the procurement process for metering technology.

"It is our goal to solicit technology that is flexible, provides robust reporting, and enables use of credit cards.

"It is also our goal to procure new technology for both on-street metering and off-street metering. Actual fees and structure will not be implemented or enforced until all necessary infrastructure has been purchased and installed. Please see the attached map for the details of the proposed parking-management structure."

FUNDING

The funding plan takes into account general town goals aiming to preserve the stability of the general fund and establishing a parking-benefit district.

Fiscal 2014 parking revenue

Meters: $68,740.93

Violations: $420,082

Permits for municipal lots: $102,450

All other permits: $34,026

Total $625,299.68

Projected revenues

These estimates are based on the parking-management plan proposed and on a survey conducted by a parking vendor several years ago.

Projected for on-street meters: $396,182.48

Projected for off-street meters: $220,101.38

Projected for violation: $475,000

Projected for permits for municipal lots: $102,450

Projected for all other permits: $34,026.75

Estimated total $1,227,760.60

Proposed uses of the money

Hold general fund harmless (violation and all other permit revenue): $509,026.75

On-street meter acquisition, operation and maintenance* (Special Revenue Fund, Ch. 40 §22a), on-street meter revenue: $396,182.48

Parking-benefit district (Revolving Fund, Ch. 44 §53E1/2) off-street permit and meter revenue: $322,551.38

Total $1,227,760.60

* Figure assumes that acquisition and operation costs (including back-end technology and credit-card processing) will be about $250,000 per year. The remaining balance of $146,182.48 will be used to offset general-fund costs associated with administration and enforcement of paid parking. This brings the total general-fund benefit of projected parking revenues to $655,209.33, ensuring that the general fund is held harmless.

PARKING GOALS

    1. Establish clear and consistent parking regulations throughout the area.

    2. Adopt an availability goal of 15% on-street and 10% off-street vacant parking spaces.

    3.  Goal to be monitored via utilization reports

    4. Price parking to meet the availability goal, using the principle of the most convenient and desirable parking being priced higher than the less desirable.

IMPLEMENTATION/GOVERNANCE

Establish a Parking Implementation/Governance Committee (PIGC) consisting of representatives from the groups who will be affected by changes to parking management in Arlington Center. This group would work with appropriate town staff to implement the new parking management system, and then once in place, work as a governance group to review and report to the board on the effectiveness of the system. This group would also play an advisory role regarding the projects to be supported with funds from the proposed benefit district.

The committee composition would be:

1. Designee of the Board of Selectmen

2. Designee of the town manager

3. Member of the Transportation Advisory Committee

4. Representative from the Chamber of Commerce

5. Representative from Arlington Center merchants

6. Representative of institutions located in Arlington Center (Arlington Catholic/St. Agnes)

7. Parking clerk

8. Community-safety traffic unit

9. Neighborhood resident

10. Planning (ex-officio)

Additional Concerns to be Addressed

The town manager listed the following policy questions to be answered. "It is our intention to have the PIGC provide recommendations to the board ... as we progress," he wrote.

1. Permits for off-street parking lots - Based on the study, staff agrees that permits are an important part of any Center parking strategy.  However, we need to work to determine the number

necessary, the cost of each permit, and the manner in which they will be designated in the lots. We also need to sit with local institutions that will be impacted by the permit  program (Arlington

Catholic High School, American Alarm, etc.) to gain an understanding of their needs and concerns.

2. Taxi stands – As discussed during the presentation in April, staff agrees that a relocation of the taxi stands is appropriate in order to meet the need for parking availability.  However, before

making a final decision, the PIGC will need to speak with the local taxi services and recommend a strategy that takes all factors into account.

3. ADA spaces – The PIGC will need to make final recommendations for the appropriate number and location of ADA spaces.

4. Loading Zones – The potential siting and time limits of a loading zone need to be discussed and a resolution recommended.

5. Bus Stops – Negotiations with the MBTA need to be finalized in order relocate bus queuing area currently located at Broadway Plaza.

6. Future rate setting – We will be asking the PIGC to recommend a system whereby rates can be altered within predetermined limits in order to meet the parking availability goal. This strategy is also known as demand-based pricing.


Key links in Center parking study

Nelson\Nygaard final report
April 9, 2014: Variety of fixes proposed
The project summary presented April 7 (town website)
Full report following the March 5 presentation (town website)

An estimated 30 business people met the morning of Thursday, Feb. 27, in a session that participants termed "good." Chapdelaine's April 3 memo says that "response to the preliminary recommendations thus far has been largely positive, including feedback from the merchants."

Jan. 9 presentation (town website)

To see some ways that Nelson Nygaard has addressed parking issues in other communities, including Medford and Salem, read Jacobson’s 2011 report titled "Parking Management: A Key to Revitalizing Massachusetts Downtowns."


This story was published Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, and updated Oct. 10 to change a link to the manager's memo.

 
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