By Mickey Friedman
August 7, 2017
Margaret came to Fuel to talk about my last column about Great Barrington. She wanted to know more about how I would solve the problems.
So let me first suggest a solution to the problem of downtown residents whose landlords aren’t required to provide parking.
Many communities have neighborhood parking permits for folks who own or rent in their neighborhood.
In 46 different areas of Baltimore, Maryland, a “Residential Decal … exempts a resident’s vehicle from posted parking restrictions in a residentially restricted parking area. Decals are affixed on the inside windshield of the vehicle on the driver’s side … Each permit costs $20 per year.”
In Philadelphia: “To be eligible for a Residential Permit Parking sticker, your vehicle must display Pennsylvania license plates and be registered and insured to your home address within the area’s permit parking district. You must provide PPA with proof of vehicle registration and insurance …” The sticker costs $35 a year.
In Boston, many of the residential streets are now “Resident Parking Only.” So “if you live in one of these neighborhoods, you need a permit to avoid getting a ticket … You need to place the permit sticker in the rear window of your car on the passenger side … There is no charge for Resident Parking permits.”
What about Great Barrington’s larger parking problem? In 2015, Gerard Giosa, an expert in parking garage feasibility analyses, wrote: “Parking garage construction costs can vary tremendously, but based on several recently completed parking garages … a basic but attractive parking garage with an elevator, security cameras, and energy-efficient lighting can be designed and constructed for about $21,000 per parking space. By comparison, the cost to design and build a surface parking lot is about $3,000 per parking space.”
The benefits: “The Town of Morristown constructed a $10 million downtown parking garage in 2000 that became the catalyst for over $60 million in new residential and commercial development in the immediate vicinity over the next five years.”
“One of most effective methods to reduce the cost of a parking garage is through a public-private partnership. When a local government designates a private developer or redeveloper for their project, a business partnership is formed in which controlling costs is in the best interest of both parties.”
Now I’m not a builder or developer but I do know that either a parking garage or public parking lot solves our problem. For years, people have talked about the land on the other side of the railroad tracks above the old firehouse extending to upper Railroad Street. It’s flat and perfectly located for a parking lot for the Downtown District. We’ve invested in a new police station, a new firehouse, and improvements to the library. It’s time to pursue purchase for a fair price or, if necessary, invoking the eminent domain powers we possess under provisions of ALM GL ch. 79 § 2 to take property for public need and use. Clearly, we need to solve a critical downtown parking problem that worsens by the day.
If you don’t think we have a problem, watch drivers circle our streets on Saturdays like desperate sharks; watch folks double park on both sides of Railroad Street; tourists imagining it’s OK to block a lane of Main Street to run in to buy something. Pick a Sunday during Mahaiwe’s opera season and watch as opera aficionados use every inch of Town Hall to park their cars.
How can we pay for this? The MassWorks Infrastructure Program provides “a one-stop shop for municipalities and other eligible public entities seeking public infrastructure funding.” In 2015 Great Barrington received $2,157,545 to fund improvements in the Bridge Street corridor so we’ll have to wait to re-apply. But here are MassWorks funded parking projects:
In 2016, Brockton received $10,000,000 for the construction of a 474-space municipal garage which will promote development of 111 new housing units.
North Adams received $2,176,341 to provide “essential public parking, pedestrian access, and site safety measures that will facilitate the redevelopment of Greylock Mill.”
In 2015, Montague was granted $325,785 for a 30-space public parking facility in Turners Falls, Montague’s largest business district.
In 2013, Easthampton received $1,500,000 to construct 404 new public parking spaces on the southern side of the Pleasant Street Mills.
In 2011, Pittsfield received a $3.6 million MassWorks grant for improvements and repair to the McKay Street Garage in downtown Pittsfield.
Let’s hope the Selectboard and the Town Manager immediately implement a simple Permit Program for those who live in downtown Great Barrington. For a minimal annual fee, residents will get a sticker alerting the Police Department that they are exempt from tickets. I for one can’t wait to get my sticker.
Then the Town can begin to assemble a public/private partnership to write grants and raise funds to finance and build our new public parking garage or parking lot.
Mickey Friedman’s Berkshire-based I Ching mysteries, “Danger” and “Folly”, as well as his non-fiction “A Red Family” are available on Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Mickey-Friedman/e/B00R4S2MSE/. His films can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/bluehillfilms
“Let’s Park” was first published in the July 27, 2017 issue of The Berkshire Record.
For more information:
MAPC works with Massachusetts communities to help transform parking from a challenge to an asset.
Financing Parking Garages: Q&A with Parking Consultant Gerard Giosa
2016 MassWorks Award Results
The Baltimore RPP Program was begun in 1979 in an effort to address the specific needs of residents in city neighborhoods where the demand for on-street parking was considered to be greatest.
Many of the City’s residential streets are now “Resident Parking Only.” If you live in one of these neighborhoods, you need a permit to avoid getting a ticket.