South End Forum Unveils Parking Recommendations

By Seth Daniel

The South End Forum’s Parking Task Force unveiled a slate of recommendations for the greater South End neighborhood regarding parking changes – including year-round street sweeping and eliminating the use of snow space savers in the neighborhood.

The plan was presented at the May 10 Forum and then circulated electronically throughout the neighborhood. The Task Force’s work included eight months of discussion by neighborhood association representatives from Blackstone-Franklin Square, Claremont, Rutland Square, Eight Streets, Hurley Blocks, Chester Square, and Washington-Gateway.

The chair of the effort was newly re-elected Blackstone/Franklin President Eric Huang.

“The goal of the Task Force was to optimize and improve the utilization of this limited but highly valued resource, secure support for recommended changes or enhancements from affected South End constituencies, and help lead the effort to secure implementation support from the appropriate government agencies and officials,” read the submitted report.

A public meeting on the proposed changes will take place on Tuesday, June 14, at the South End Branch Library at 6 p.m. and members of the Task Force will be on hand to discuss the recommendations, hear comments and contemplate revisions. Following the meeting, the final report will be completed and submitted to the South End Forum for its approval. If approved, the recommendations would be sent to Mayor Martin Walsh’s office and other members of City government for official action.

One of the key recommendations involves winter parking – a persistent problem in the South End in particular. The Task Force recommended implementing a pilot program in the South End for year-round street sweeping that incorporates plowing all the way to the curb to accommodate winter street sweeping. In order to make up for the time that parking would be lost due to this, it is recommended that the City publicize that vehicles can park on streets subject to street sweeping after the street has been swept without a fine or a tow.

Accommodations to this plan were suggested for church parking on Columbus Avenue and at the Holy Cross Cathedral – among other such stakeholders.

Along the same vein, the Task Force called for the South End to be a “space saver free zone” permanently, staring with a plan for such a thing next winter. In order to make this known, they are calling for the City to publicize that the South End doesn’t allow space savers in its annual Winter Weather pamphlet distributed to everyone.

The parking recommendations were voluminous and complex and represented a tremendous amount of thought.

First, all unsigned areas of the South End are called to receive a parking designation, whether resident only, visitor, meter or otherwise. No area should be left without some sort of signed restriction.

Currently, unsigned areas mostly include: Shawmut Ave. from W. Brookline St. to Worcester St.; Massachusetts Ave. from Washington St. to Columbus Ave.; Tremont St. from Worcester St. to W. Newton St.; Union Park St. from Washington St. to Harrison Ave.; W. Dedham St. and Pelham St. between Shawmut Ave. and Washington St.

They did lay out some exceptions, however.

“We recognize that parking designations are not a one-size-fits-all solution for all interested parties,” read the report. “Where unique situations arise, neighborhood groups should work with those organizations to craft creative parking solutions. For example, volunteer needs of St. Stephen’s Church may require more than two-hour visitor parking. Areas adjacent to businesses, parks, and areas requiring day time visitors, such as senior centers, should receive a reasonable allocation of two-hour visitor parking or metered parking during the day.”

Another area of change involves the process for change. The Task Force concluded that there are too many different rules for too many areas. The Task Force called for changes to occur at the neighborhood association or regional geographic level rather than by a street-by-street petition process.

In addition, the City’s 51 percent petition requirement for resident parking changes is suggested to be modified for the South End.

“The 51 percent petition requirement for establishing resident parking should be modified to be sensitive to immediate abutter needs while incorporating wider neighborhood input and broad city parking policy considerations,” read the report. “Application of the petition requirement in its current form results in an insular approach to parking, fails to reflect the parking realities of a dense neighborhood, and results in patchwork of signage and restrictions on adjacent blocks.”

Signage was also a factor in the recommendations, including the following:

  • Replace worn out or faded signs on a regular basis.
  • Make sure signs are visible. Trim trees as needed. Don’t let adjacent signs occlude each other.
  • Within a neighborhood, make all signs consistent. (South End has a mix of old style and new style.)
  • Have consistent policies for type of activity, i.e., why is one valet zone 4pm-1am and the adjacent valet zone 5pm-midnight?
  • Adopt a consistent Visitor spot policy. The South End has three different style of visitor parking signs for 3 different visitor policies.
  • Consider combining signs where appropriate to generate one sign listing parking restrictions per sign/post vs. the current 2-3 signs per post.
  • Consider e-ink signs. Under experiment in Australia, these are low power digital signs that show the condition of a given spot right now. They can say “Loading Zone” or “Visitor” – until a certain time, at which point they can change to “open parking” or “resident only.” Any text can list the time when the current parking use expires. All neighborhood signs could be controlled from a central location.

Other recommendations addressed permitting, car sharing, and street occupancy permits (dumpsters).

The full regulations have been posted on the South End Forum’s Facebook page.

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