PARKING

Q: I hear this project will reduce the overall number of parking spots downtown by about 57. It feels like it’s already hard to find a spot.

A: Over the years, we have commissioned several studies to look at our parking downtown, and all have agreed that the plan includes sufficient parking for downtown. The parking garage (with a bridge leading right into Thornes Market in the heart of downtown) always has spaces available, and the first hour is free. Numbers show that about 12% of the people who park there pay nothing, 20% pay just 75 cents for two hours, and another third pay $1.50 for three hours!  

Northampton offers an experience as a downtown and offers a place where people want to come and hang out. The Picture Main Street project builds on that with more space for people to hang out, dine on the sidewalk, and walk or roll side-by-side down the sidewalk.

  • In 2014, Walker Parking Consultants found:

“Overall, the parking system had capacity on our survey days, and that finding is consistent with informal observations made on other visits and with information provided by staff. Our off-street, public occupancy rates were very close to counts done in 2000 for a previous study (we found 83 percent peak occupancy, whereas the earlier study found 85 percent peak occupancy)...Our counts find that under most typical conditions, a driver should be able to find parking within a few blocks.”

The recommendations of this report largely mirror many of the measures enacted by Mayor Sciarra in March 2023 to address the REAL problem - circulation (the fact that cars stayed too long in prime parking spots at the wrong times).

  • In 2022, Stantec parking expert Jason Schrieber shared in his parking system analysis:

“In peak hours, Main Street is at full capacity and off-street lots are significantly below 85%. This observation can be reversed by adjusting pricing, rather than supply. When front door “Main Street” spaces are priced higher, more remote and less utilized spaces can be priced cheaper, or in times of low-demand, free.”

It was many of the recommendations of this report that were implemented in March of 2023.  

Based on feedback from parking managers, enforcement officers, and downtown visitors, Mayor Sciarra believes that Main Street parking has improved. We're now collecting data for a six-month review of the changes made in March and will soon update residents. If more modifications are necessary, the city will make them - in the ongoing cycle of using data to inform good policy. 

Q2: I love the angled parking spaces. It’s too hard to parallel park.  

A2: There will be many angled parking spots on Main Street and on all of Crafts Avenue.

That said, studies show that angled parking is unsafe. This is part of why Main Street is on the list as one of the most unsafe streets in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Most cities in the USA have parallel parking in their downtowns. In fact, even in Northampton, most of our main arteries are parallel parking - upper and lower Main Street, Pleasant Street, King Street, Gothic, Center, Strong… and so on. People park in all of those locations.

There are also 1,000 front-in parking spaces in lots just off Main Street and the E.J. Gare Garage. We must embrace the idea that the city’s success is not built on being able to park directly in front of a given store on Main Street; it’s built on being a great place to visit, shop, see a show, and eat. We need to focus on what that means in the modern economy and build more of that. The Picture Main Street project is a critical, once-in-a-generation opportunity to use state funds to help us achieve what’s next. 

Q3: Angled parking is easier for visitors with disabilities.

Q3: Some definitely think so, and some prefer parallel. It depends on the individual and how their vehicle is set up to assist their disability. We’ve heard from fans of both approaches, which is why the Picture Main Street plan includes accessible spaces on Main Street that are both angled parking and parallel parking style. 

The Picture Main Street plan also increases the number of accessible parking spots on Main Street by two additional spaces.

Q4: But 57 spaces? That seems like a lot!

A4: We have tested this reduction in spaces over the past three summers. The current outdoor dining program incorporates 57 parking spaces. This is a live test of what it’s like to live without those spaces, and it’s worked to bring people back downtown since the pandemic. The outdoor dining and other vibrancy activities downtown have restored the city’s local receipts revenues, such as meal taxes - more space for more people really works!

Show All Answers

1. PARKING
2. BICYCLES ON MAIN STREET
3. TRIAL RUN
4. TRAFFIC STUDY
5. MAIN STREET NEEDS FOUR LANES
6. CONGESTION/CLIMATE CONCERNS WITH THREE LANES
7. EMERGENCIES AND PUBLIC SAFETY EQUIPMENT
8. SNOW REMOVAL
9. IMPACT ON BUSINESSES
10. DELIVERY VEHICLES
11. TREE CANOPY
12. MISREPRESENTATION OF FOUR-MILE RADIUS
13. ACCESSIBILITY
14. CONCERNS ABOUT COST AND/OR MONEY
15. SAFETY
16. PUBLIC PROCESS
17. MISCELLANEOUS