To begin, it’s necessary to distinguish between those businesses who have off-street parking and those whose customers must use street parking. On Beacon Street there are both types. For instance, Star Market—perhaps the largest business on Beacon Street—has an abundance of off-street parking, to the point that they may be willing to rent their excess parking to the City. On the other hand, there are several businesses on Beacon Street who rely on on-street parking to meet all their parking needs. But even among those businesses that rely entirely on street parking, their needs will vary based on the amount of time their customers need to park.
Short-term & Long-term Parking Needs
The businesses whose customers require only short-term parking pose markedly different challenges than the businesses who have longer term parking needs. One rule-of-thumb is that the longer a person is staying in a location, the further they will be willing to walk from a parking space to their destination. To illustrate, a customer who will be spending 3 or 4 hours over dinner at a restaurant would likely be willing to park further from his destination than a customer parking to pick up take-out food.
On Beacon Street there is very little short term parking. This favors businesses with long term parking needs as any available parking may not be directly in front of the store. Take for example two businesses on the western end of Beacon Street: Café Rustica and the Beacon Street Laundromat. Both have no off-street parking and have a mix of long and short term customers. Short term customers who drive to these businesses probably have some difficulty finding parking on Beacon Street at peak times. Therefore it is understandable that they are concerned about losing curb-side parking.
Furthermore, some businesses are more car-oriented than others. Whereas an auto-repair shop may have 100% of its customers arrive by car, other businesses may find that most of their customers arrive on foot or by bike. While there are several auto-only-oriented businesses on Beacon Street, all of them appear to have adequate off-street parking. Whether parking is removed from one side of the street or not, there remains a challenge for businesses with a substantial customer base who drive, but rely on short term on-street parking. Potential solutions to this are posed later on. First let us turn to residential parking.
As in much of Somerville, many car-owners opt not to use their driveways when they can easily park on the street. After all, a City parking permit costs less than $3 a month, while off-street spaces on Craigslist retail for between $75 and $100 a month. In defense of those who use on-street spaces when they have off-street parking, on-street spaces are often the most convenient parking space to a resident’s front door.
One important item to note: Beacon Street has street sweeping twice a week every week from March 1st through December 31st. This rigorous sweeping schedule makes the very-long-term (2+ days) residential parking seen on other Somerville street (where cars need only be moved every two weeks) impossible on Beacon Street for most of the year.
Parking During Street Sweeping
These are my results:
Street Sweeping/ No-Parking North Side
I did not have the time or energy to count off-street parking availability. That said, I could still easily observe that Star Market and most of the larger business lots were almost entirely empty. This is not surprising given that the businesses are closed in the middle of the night. Additionally, a quick glance at the driveways revealed that although many driveways were full, others had available capacity. In fact there were a few driveways that were completely empty.
Managing Parking on Beacon Street
In order to get the most out of Beacon Street’s on- and off-street parking, I recommend trying a combination of well-designed regulations and judicious pricing to achieve the following goals:
● Encourage able-bodied, long-term parkers (2+ hours) to park in less desirable further-away parking spaces
● Make short term curb-side/ close to curb-side parking available for business owners during the hours that they need them
● Incentivize business owners and residents to make their under-utilized driveways and parking lots available to those who could use the parking.
● Fully inform and make clear to residents, businesses and customers the range of parking (and non-driving) options available