Some solutions to our parking
Published in the Brookline
March 23, 2000
At last week's Brookline Village forum organized by the Commercial Areas
Parking Committee, the presenters and the audience proposed a range of
possible solutions to the parking space scarcity outside Brookline stores.
I got the feeling, though, that there wasn't much expectation that the
outcome this time will be any different than it was after earlier efforts
to grapple with the problem. Parking will remain scarce, storeowners will
complain that would-be customers can't park, and residents without their
own driveways will resent the fact that the town's latest parking crusade
doesn't even pretend to address the problems of people who actually live
Parking garages may get built someday in Brookline Village and Coolidge
Corner, but it's hard to know if these will actually resolve the problem
or merely attract more cars. Some 10-hour parking meters might get changed
to 2-hour meters to discourage commuters from hogging the spots. Some
2-hour meters might become 15- or 30-minute meters to save spots for people
who just need to pick up their dry cleaning or run in someplace for a
sandwich. All these efforts might help.
But what we really need is to cut down on the number of people who drive
into Brookline everyday.
As emphasized at the forum, the main problem in the commercial areas
stems from storeowners and their employees who drive to work and feed
parking meters all day, making those meters unavailable to customers.
Since meter feeding is illegal, more enforcement would help, until the
cops tire of staring at parking meters all day.
The town has asked storeowners to encourage employees to take the T to
work, but asking isn't enough. Even if some employees cooperate, it only
takes a few holdouts to fill the scarce spots.
Perhaps it's time to go further. One possibility: make employee transit
use a requirement for anyone doing business in Brookline, with a parking
tax on businesses based on the number of employees who drive to work.
This might give storeowners an incentive to subsidize employee T passes.
You'd think losing business because customers can't park would be enough
of an incentive, but that's only true if every storeowner participates
so that no one benefits unfairly from the subsidies offered by everyone
Another possibiity: the town itself could subsidize T passes directly.
Why not just give free passes to employees who agree to leave their cars
at home? Expensive, yes, but more enforcement--and that new parking tax--should
cover the costs.
But subsidies aren't enough. T passes won't help employees who don't
live near a convenient bus or train. So we need to do more, perhaps setting
up a shuttle service that could supplement the town's bus lines. This
would also help residents get out of town, and get around town, without
adding more cars to the clogged streets.
My point is that we need to think beyond relatively minor solutions that
are unlikely to resolve the problem. Confronting the parking scarcity
requires more than just going over the same old ground yet again.
It also requires throwing residential parking into the mix. It was clear
at last week's parking forum that at least some residents resent the lack
of attention to their own parking problems. The overnight parking ban,
the two-hour daytime parking limit on residential streets, the no-parking
rules between 7 and 9 a.m. on many streets--these are constant irritants
for many Brookline residents. Hearing at the forum that enforcement in
commercial areas is minimal adds to the annoyance of those of us who repeatedly
get tickets in front of our own homes.
So when will there be a Residential Areas Parking Forum? In neighborhoods
such as Brookline Village, where commercial parking encroaches on residential
streets, resident willingness to accommodate customers and employees is
crucial. That willingness is likely to be dampened so long as the town
fails to take their needs into account.
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