Chamber News

October 23, 2019 Likes Comments

Newton’s variable parking price program is worth exploring

Greg Reibman | President of Newton-Needham Regional ChamberBy Greg Reibman

An article in today’s Newton TAB (Newton businesses flabbergasted by possible $3.75 parking meters) mischaracterized a new parking rate plan in Newton.

The TAB reported that the council gave the city the authority to raise parking rates to as much as $3.75 an hour. But it failed to explain that it’s very unlikely the fees would ever be anywhere close to that amount, except perhaps in the rarest circumstances and not anytime soon.

What actually happened is the Newton City Council recently voted to give the city the authority to implement on demand, variable parking rates; a parking management tool that has been employed successfully in communities across the nation.

Variable parking pricing is a tool that – when combined with other travel demand management strategies – can actually make it easier for customers to find parking by adjusting the meter rates based on demand.

For example, if there’s a city block which consistently has plenty of available spaces right around the corner from a block where it’s almost always difficult to find a space, this new tool allows planners to charge more where demand is highest and charge less where there’s more availability.

As a result, employees who may currently be monopolizing a space right in front of a popular business could now choose to park around the corner, paying less and leaving spaces open for customers.

The goal is to actually create open spaces on both of these blocks, while subsequently reducing emissions and congestion that’s created by drivers who circle our streets waiting for a space.

As I said, this is not a concept that the city invented. It’s been successfully used to nationwide to curb traffic created by vehicles driving in circles looking for a space.

I spoke this morning with Newton Planning Director Barney Heath and the mayor’s office. Both assured me that they will work closely with the chamber and local businesses to make sure this program makes it easier, not harder, to patronize and support our businesses.

The mayor’s office also stressed that no rates are changing now and “will be done gradually and modestly, with input from businesses and with a lot of advance notice.”

Rest assured, the chamber won’t just take the mayor’s word for this. We will be watching this closely.

We will be looking to you, our members, for your feedback too.

But, I do believe that -- if employed with other transportation demand management programs, including improved public transit, safer crosswalks, bike lanes and bike parking -- programs like these can enhance the vitality of our village centers, reduce emissions and improve the experience for those who continue to choose driving.


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