By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Parking is a hot topic these days, and not only in Winthrop, but all across the area, cities and towns are adapting to increase parking issues.
Jason Schrieber, a parking and transportation expert with Nelson/Nygaard, was invited to speak by Julia Wallerace of the town’s Transportation Committee.
Schrieber’s talk called, “Downtown Parking Successes and Failures: Examples from New England Communities” focused on other communities, but did share a few observances on Winthrop.
Those in attendance were told the Thursday evening event was not a public hearing about parking in the center, and more about looking at parking and the solutions some communities have come up with.
One item Schrieber pointed out was the proper use of signage, not too little and not too much. In Nantucket, the signs are nicely made of wood, but there is also a sign about every 20 feet.
“There is a hyper excess of parking signs,” Schrieber said. All stating where to park, when to park, how much to pay to park. Winthrop on the other hand lacks enough signage to encourage public parking.
In Rockport there is a mixture of signage, from wood to metal, and messages.
“In Winchester the signs are scattered and shows parking management gone wrong,” Schrieber said.
Downtown Medford underwent a revitalization, and did a study whether or not a parking garage would be a good idea.
Salem and Beverly are working on solutions to increase the use of parking garages. In Salem the garage wasn’t being used because it was cheaper to park on the street.
“The parking garages there weren’t being fully used,” Schrieber said.
He noted another quirk with parking is that drivers want to park near the front door. The availability of parking is most important, as is efficiency in parking which can also lead to efficient walking. Could there be an efficiency issue in Winthrop?
One of the first things he noticed about Winthrop was the area around the new middle/high school.
“There’s a lot of asphalt around there,” Schrieber said. “C-130s could land there.”
He also pointed out that crossing a wide Pauline Street could turn people off from parking in the lots there and walking to the center.
Private parking lots like at Michael’s Mall and Nick’s may be utilized if the town enters into an agreement with the owners. Police Chief Terence Delehanty said people are parking at the lot at Michael’s Mall and the department has been inundated with calls. Schrieber said there are several municipalities that have entered into public/private agreements for parking.
“Some downtowns such as Indianapolis and Ft. Lauderdale have privately held parking,” Schrieber said.
Schreiber said for Winthrop the basics would include signs and information and rewarding of good parking behavior.
“Not finding an available space can be a disaster for business,” Schrieber said.
The final four points in his lecture left for people to think about when thinking of solutions:
- Parking management is not science – it’s about recognizing we’re all human
- Parking solutions are simple – overcoming out expectations is difficult
- Parking is not the problem – unless it delays me
- Parking pricing is not a disaster for business – customer not finding an available spot is
“The key to success is a level of community involvement and key stakeholders,” Schreiber said. “This is not a difficult problem to solve.”