Medford officials consider cutting free parking, increasing enforcement
Published: Friday, November 13, 2009
Updated: Friday, November 13, 2009 08:11
Tufts students and Medford residents alike could soon see the end of free parking in Medford. The city is considering implementing new measures and more strictly enforcing existing regulations.
Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn is currently weighing the recommendations of a report issued last month by the Parking Advisory Committee, an organization he created in May 2008 at the urging of City Council member Michael Marks.
Harsher parking enforcement would mean adding new parking meters to public spaces, especially in the downtown business district, and hiring civilian parking officers to catch currently overlooked violations.
Marks told the Daily that downtown businesses complained that the lack of enforcement allowed people to stay in spaces for very long periods of time, making it difficult for customers to park in downtown areas.
"People were parking for eight to ten hours and taking up spots. We felt the best way to address that was through meters," Marks said.
Louis Galvez III, administrative services coordinator at Tufts' Department of Public Safety, which handles parking issues on campus, said that any change in Medford's parking regulations or enforcement would only affect streets currently under the authority of Medford police, not any part of Tufts campus.
"We do not enforce Medford or Somerville, and Somerville and Medford do not enforce for us," Galvez said.
The committee also recommended that the city create a department independent of the city's police to enforce existing parking regulations. Marks said the police often have too many responsibilities to adequately address parking issues, and this means some violations go overlooked.
The civilian department would focus solely on parking, leading to a more streamlined enforcement.
"Agents dedicated just to [parking] enforcement have a higher rate of finding people who are in violation," Galvez said.
The new agency would be charged with issuing tickets to vehicles parked illegally on the streets within Medford's borders.
According to Marks, the committee held a series of hearings to study the enforcement policies of Boston and Somerville, which both have separate civilian parking departments.
"Tufts students have probably noticed that Somerville has it down to a science, whereas the Medford side has been lacking for years," Marks said.
Somerville currently generates far greater revenue from parking enforcement than Medford — nearly $8 million, according to Marks. The aim of Medford's new civilian parking department would be to eventually fund itself through meter and ticket revenues.
"There definitely will be a focus on enforcement," McGlynn told the Daily. "There will be areas where you never paid for parking where that will change."
One of those areas is the section of Boston Avenue that lies adjacent to Tufts' campus, where businesses like Pizza Days and Dunkin' Donuts are located.
"The Boston Avenue area was targeted for meters," Marks said. Though specific plans do not yet exist, meters will likely be installed on the portion of Boston Avenue adjacent to Tufts' campus.
Though Tufts' campus will not be affected, such measures have the potential to impact off-campus residents by increasing their living expenses.
"It makes it almost impossible for us to park here on a regular basis," said Vanessa Miller, a senior who lives on Boston Avenue.
City officials see the move as even more important given the planned extension of the Green Line, which has the potential to significantly increase traffic in the area when it is completed in 2014.
"We know with the extension the need for enforcement around the Green Line is definitely going to be increased," Marks said.
Concrete plans have yet to be implemented by the city, as McGlynn is still weighing the suggestions of the committee's reports.
"We got the report a couple weeks ago," McGlynn said. "Now I'm having internal discussions with my staff, the police department, and a lot of other sources coming into this."
McGlynn did not anticipate any visible changes to parking regulations until the spring.
"Certainly nothing is going to happen in the next three months," McGlynn said.
McGlynn said that during that time, a lot of "behind-the-scene" work would be done. This may include choosing someone to manage the initial stage of the project.
The committee's report called for the appointment of an individual to oversee the planning phase, the creation of the parking agency and the installation of parking meters — "someone that can be a chief on this, maybe a project manager, to eat, drink, and sleep parking enforcement," Marks said.
Before plans can officially be implemented, city officials need to find clear sources of revenue to pay for the project.
"I would imagine at some point the mayor will approach the [City] Council and ask for a bond or whatever he thinks is necessary," Marks said. At that point the council would have the opportunity to provide its own input.
Marks said that there might be a two-month grace period following implementation of the new methods to regulate parking, during which violators will receive a warning instead of a ticket from the new parking enforcers.
The new rules would not affect TUPD's responsibilities. "I cannot see our responsibilities becoming greater, and I can not see their responsibilities falling onto the campus."
"The greatest difference you'll see is a stepped-up effort by the city of Medford to catch people who are in violation of their rules," Galvez said.