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The first weekend of February saw a massive storm hit the Northeast. Where I live in Somerville, cars were banned from parking on the even side of the street.  Being one of the densest cities in the United States, one had to wonder where all those cars went.  I put together a web survey and got 218 responses.   Here's what I found.

The 218 of you people who answered my survey were responsible for parking 350 cars that weekend, so it’s a pretty good sample.  

It’s interesting to note that although 50% of households have one car, they only account for 33% of the cars accounted for.   Two car households actually have the most cars in Somerville.  Three and four car household are a relatively small group-- small enough so that their car numbers don’t add up to a whole lot.

I looked at the US Census to see how our survey responses compared with what the average is for Somerville in 2010. If we assume that the 23.7% of residents who don’t own cars in the Census had answered my survey, the profile of respondents would have been pretty close to the overall picture of Somerville.
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I looked at the US Census to see how our survey responses compared with what the average is for Somerville in 2010. If we assume that the 23.7% of residents who don’t own cars in the Census had answered my survey, the profile of respondents would have been pretty close to the overall picture of Somerville.

So... where did we park.  The short answer is, in driveways.  Generally our own driveway, but sometimes friend’s driveways.  Some people did park in City lots and out of town, but they were not a significant portion of the cars parked.  Note, where there were less than ten cars in the total, I just used "plus 1/ minus 1 etc).  Because the numbers were small, the percentages wouldn't have meant much.
And for those of you who like details, the placement of those cars in more detail is at the bottom of the post.

What’s most interesting is how many people appear to be not moving their cars back to the street many days after the storm.  Below are pictures of Hancock Street, Willow Street, and Belmont Street where I live more than two weeks after the storm.    I have two theories about where the cars went.  One, peoples cars are hunkered down in their storm locations and no one’s in a rush to get them back out on the street.  Or two, the odd side of the street is now long-term-parking, and all the people who drive to work are using their driveways or using the even side of the street at night (my pictures were done mid day).

Hancock Street 16 days after the storm

Willow Street 16 days after the storm

Belmont Street: 16 days later

My take away is that on-street spaces are truly loved and convenient places to park, but that when it comes to a pinch-- like a big snow storm, we have the space to store our cars.  I think we could also do more to encourage people without driveways to hook up (not in the biblical sense) with those with driveways.  Then we’d really be efficient.  One of the beauties of sharing a driveway is that people you share with will help dig you out!

I have to say something about Beacon Street-- it has it’s share of driveways too-- but more than driveways it has a number of very large surface lots that right now are only open to customers and employees.  Can we use policies and prices to encourage owners to share their extra spaces?  Can we do this in a way that doesn’t hurt low income drivers?  In the meantime as businesses and landlords, can we use better the parking that we have?  That will be the subject of another post. Food for thought.
 


Comments

Sam
02/28/2013 08:52

When the majority of cars surveyed had driveway spaces to begin with of course you're going to get those results....

02/28/2013 11:30

This is a random survey of Somerville people who happen to come across the survey link. I think you ask a good question of what exclusively people without driveways do with their cars. This was just a general survey of all car owners regardless of parking status. It is safe to say that all the people with one car who didn't park in a driveway during the storm don't have a driveway or access to a driveway. That's about 40%.

I actually hadn't tabulated the cars to driveways ratio, but going back to look at the data it's 345 cars to 172 driveways. That's amazingly almost exactly two to one.

03/19/2013 03:37

Not as good as the car parked on the street.


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