Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Downtown Salem Parking Insanity

Morency Manor Parking 2009-08-23 001

The Salem News is reporting on something I have known ever since I’ve lived downtown:  Parking Bleeps.

The owner of Marketplace Quilts on Front St. has complained:

Clark blamed the city for allowing a restaurant that big to open without planning for parking. In a letter, she said her nighttime business has declined "because parking is nowhere to be found."

While sympathetic, city officials disagree. Halloween aside, they contend there is plenty of parking within a short walking distance of stores and restaurants.

The two city garages have not filled up once this whole tourist season, according to Parking Director Jim Hacker.

"We are busy, but we have not had an overflow crowd," he said last week.

In my building, we have our own frustrations about parking.  In a meeting with several of my neighbors to discuss building renovations, there were several wacky ideas proposed for parking.

One idea was to build a deck, or two, above the existing parking lot.  The other was to pave over the small triangular park that was formed when Bridge St. was realigned to the new bypass road.

Unfortunately, the deck idea isn’t the most practical:  There’s too little space on the site to accommodate the ramps to each level, which take up space below as well as above.

And paving the small park…not so much.  The Jail developers would have a fit.  That park is our compensation for tolerating the new road.  It’s a necessary—and welcome—buffer, particularly for  Howard St. residents. 

The article goes on:

Last fall, the Urban Land Institute, a research and educational group, came to Salem to consider the long-discussed prospect of building a parking garage on the Church Street lot behind District Court to handle future growth.

It rejected the idea.

"Residential development of the site would better promote the vibrant, sustainable growth of downtown Salem," the Institute concluded.

It also pointed to the paradox of downtown Salem: "Though the city appears to have adequate parking supply, parking in downtown is a real issue."

At the time, I had understood that the group did not want to have a 2nd parking structure so close to the existing Museum Place garage. 

I’m not so sure about residential development.

People living downtown, particularly newer residents, have expectations that are very difficult to fulfill here.

A few months ago, our executive director, Carol MacGown, came to a tenant’s meeting.  For the better part of two hours, the only subject on the agenda was parking.

My neighbors were screaming at her!

Ms. MacGown has very little control over the overall situation downtown;  she inherited a building that was not designed to have all its residents parking at once. 

Over at Derby Lofts, people there are asking the city to pay for their parking at South Harbor Garage.

Meanwhile, whenever people like myself advocate  public transit, the response is always “I’m not subsidizing your transit!  Get a car! Let the Free Market work!”

But the city is subsidizing parking, to an extent that’s virtually unrealized by most Salemmites.  Public transit may not come for free but neither do roads and parking spaces! 

If we promise every downtown resident two parking spaces, we are screwed.  Salem can’t do it.  We can’t.

We need every bit of our roads and parking spaces for the many that pass through via 1A and 114, and for those who deliver, shop and visit here.

I shouldn’t hold out hope for this belief, but if new downtown residents are to have a good life in Salem, they have to live without a car.  Or at most one car.  Or a bike, or a moped or a scooter (why I don’t see more of those around is beyond me.) 

They can’t have the suburban life here.  They’re better off screaming at the MBTA, than at Mayor Driscoll or our own MacGown. 

Seniors have changed from my mom’s generation, the one that was more used to trolleys, streetcars, or even horses.  The baby boomers grew up around cars and they’re determined to head for their sunset with their cars.

They just can’t do it in downtown Salem.

1 comment:

jeanie marie kraft, L.Ac. said...

Great post and so true. Now the city of Salem wants to shut down the Klop Alley parking lot behind Artist Row from Thanksgiving to Xmas so they can put a winter carnival in it. I attended the meeting yesterday and the mayor just does not get that there is a parking problem in Salem. Closing that lot will be harmful to all of the businesses in that area as well as residents. And if it snows during that time we are all.... well you know!