By Charlie Breitrose
New parking strategies are being considered in hopes of making Watertown’s two main business districts – Watertown Square and Coolidge Square – more attractive to shoppers, diners and workers.
A parking study presented by consultants from Stantec found that Watertown has enough parking in those areas. However, the prime spots in municipal lots or on the street in front of businesses, often fill up.
Parking consultant Ralph DeNisco said Watertown should consider having pricing based on demand, with the most popular spots having the highest price, and the least popular the cheapest. He recommended having $1 an hour in the prime spots, others 50 cents an hour and those in least demand be free.
Currently, the meters in Watertown only accept coins. DeNisco said the town could replace them with “smart” meters that takes credit cards and also accepts payments via a cellphone app.
“The biggest barrier for people is the friction of making a payment,” DeNisco said. “Do I have coins or do I have any dollars? People get tickets, risk getting one, or drive away. It changes their behavior.”
In the municipal parking lots, rather than having smart meters, DeNisco recommended having parking kiosks in a few locations in the lot. This would save money, because smart meters cost about $500 each and each lot has dozens of meters.
Other recommendations include better signage for municipal lots to make it clear they are public parking, and directional signs pointing people toward these lots.