Shared Parking in Union Square

by Tim Czerwienski (MUP ’14)

With the long-awaited MBTA Green Line extension arriving in Somerville’s Union Square in early 2017, the City of Somerville is preparing for a wave of new development in its historic downtown. Union Square Main Streets, a local nonprofit with a mission to enhance the Union Square business district, has been particularly concerned about managing growth in the square while maintaining its signature ethnic and cultural identity. Tim’s project for Union Square Main Streets involved devising strategies for managing the parking that would come along with new development that the City of Somerville had enabled with a recent rezoning of the neighborhood. Nearly 20 percent of Union Square’s developable area is taken up by surface parking. Managing new parking will be a key to ensuring sustainable growth.

Tim developed a report with four recommendations. The first was to make shared parking easier. Shared parking reduces the total number of parking spaces in a neighborhood, and makes the use of those spaces more efficient. The second recommendation was to explore a payment-in-lieu-of-parking regime. Payments in lieu of parking allow a development to forgo their city-mandated parking requirement in exchange for paying into a fund for the construction of centrally located shared parking facilities.

The third recommendation was to implement other parking management techniques, like variable rate parking meters, parking wayfinding, and smarter enforcement. Finally, Tim suggested contextually sensitive ways to add new parking supply to the neighborhood.