Fine for parking

22Feb19

It was heartening to see the Wakefield Town Council take an action recently that will benefit those who drive automobiles, because the trend across the Commonwealth and the nation in recent years has been to treat motorists as the scum of the earth.

The city of Boston recently floated the idea of a $5 surcharge for anyone who takes a car into the city.

But even in such progressive precincts as Cambridge, they’re having trouble convincing residents to give up their wheels. According to the Boston Globe, Cambridge is falling well short of its goal of reducing the car ownership ratio among city residents by 15 percent from 1990 levels. In fact, the number of cars owned by Cambridge residents has actually increased by 6.5 percent in the last 20 years.

So, when Harvard Square is under water due to the rising sea levels, you’ll know who to blame.

Combining slightly longer parking time limits with stricter enforcement means more spaces will turn over more frequently, increasing your chances of finding a parking space when you arrive downtown to do an errand.

The Town Council voted 5-2 a couple of weeks ago to add $48,000 to the police budget to hire two part-time civilian parking attendants to enforce the parking time limits in the downtown area. But even though the parking enforcement program will pay for itself in revenue generated, there still wasn’t unanimous support for a measure that will benefit drivers of automobiles.

Not counting the town’s ill-fated attempt to take Brightview up on its offer to build us a free parking garage, this marks the first meaningful effort in living memory to address a problem that’s plagued the downtown ever since Col. James Hartshorne tethered his steed in front of Burrage Yale’s Inn.

Drivers, or at least those who drive vehicles that burn fossil fuels, rank near the bottom of the PC hierarchy, somewhere between cigarette smokers and white males.

It’s too bad that the Green New Deal, with its promise to eliminate all cars within 10 years, didn’t come out a little sooner. The Town Councilors could have saved themselves the trouble of addressing an issue that will be moot in a decade anyway.

One of the benefits of Wakefield’s extra-wide Main Street is that we can fit angle parking on both sides of the street and still have plenty of lane space for moving traffic. Compared to parallel parking, angle parking roughly doubles the number of available spaces.

Angle parking was mentioned at Tuesday night’s public input meeting on the planned downtown revitalization and infrastructure upgrades, mostly in a negative context. Angle spaces were seen as a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists. (Who cares about drivers?)

Moving from angle parking to parallel parking would make bike lanes easier to implement, but you would lose at least 50 percent of your parking spaces. There was no explicit talk of bike lanes among the 100 or so attendees at Tuesday’s public meeting – but it’s early yet.

Finally, I would like to close with a bold prediction. Tuesday’s public meeting on the downtown infrastructure project was well publicized in the Daily Item, online and on local social media. But few years from now, when work begins, people will rise up and demand to know why this project was kept secret, why they never heard anything about it and why there were no forums or opportunities for public input.

[This column originally appeared in the February 21, 2019 Wakefield Daily Item.]



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