In a surprising announcement, Mayor Martin Walsh on Tuesday night said the City will begin a pilot program restricting parking on East Berkeley Street during the day hours between Harrison and Washington streets.
It’s a measure that the immediate neighborhood has fought to implement for years, and one that the entire South End has called for in strong terms over the last year.
The announcement came at the South End Forum meeting Tuesday night, and had not been public before that time. Residents had made a strong calling for it during a South End traffic meeting earlier in the summer, but nothing had been uttered about it since.
“We’re really trying to start doing things and trying to move forward on things like this,” said the mayor. “The Roslindale experience we had (with the dedicated bus lane) taught me a lot. The residents and neighbors and businesses in the area went from being really against it to being totally for it. Now it’s permanent. I think this might be another opportunity for people.”
The pilot program will go into place very soon and will include restricting parking on the north side of East Berkeley Street between Harrison Avenue and Washington Street. While it’s only one block, it’s one block that bottlenecks traffic and turns the neighborhood into a parking lot. Pedestrians often move faster that cars in that stretch, and it’s mostly due to the fact that three lanes needle down to one lane. The parking is already restricted during morning hours (7-9 a.m.) and evening hours (4-6 p.m.), but now it would be restricted seven days a week and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Parking on the southern side of the block will remain as is.
Heretofore, the businesses in the area were the hardest sell, particularly FastFrame and J.J. Foley’s – who wanted the parking for their establishments. It appears that the businesses along the stretch have now agreed on the long-controversial plan.
Ken Smith, president of East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA), was ecstatic and said they couldn’t be more happy with the announcement, which came totally unexpected.
“The current situation is unsustainable and an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “It’s a major thoroughfare to the South End and Back Bay and it backs up to South Boston…We are so happy to be moving forward and finding solutions and not band-aids. Pilots are a good way to gather data. Hearing about this pilot is phenomenal news for our neighborhood.”
The mayor said the Boston Transportation Department will be gathering data during the pilot program, though a timeframe for the pilot wasn’t announced. He said they’ll use the data from the pilot to analyze whether the solution helped and then try to go forward from there. If it helps, the pilot could be made a permanent change.
The program came to fruition in part due to a summer’s worth of negotiations and work by Mayoral Liaison Faisa Sharif, who has been working on a solution for the block for some time.