In a recent posting about the nettlesome problem of park/parking for the central waterfront, it was stated that “Unfortunately, unlike the statue of George Washington, there are no obvious or easy answers to this controversy.” I agree with half of this statement - I agree that there is no obvious answer to the controversy.
Several recent mayors have attempted to get obvious solutions accepted and have failed, badly. I can only hope that the current mayor will also fail to gain acceptance for the obvious solution he is promoting - if he succeeds I can only imagine the comments of residents ten years from now on how extraordinarily foolish people were to place a parking lot in a beautiful waterfront location that will by then be at the middle of massive waterfront development that will span from the Gillis Bridge (Rt. 1) almost to Joppa Park.
People scoffed (with some justification) about the recently proposed Green Street location making downtown Newburyport look like Haverhill. However, making a parking lot the centerpiece of an otherwise beautiful downtown is so utterly lacking in vision as to beggar the imagination.
Fortunately, there may just be a relatively easy solution. It entails moving beyond a one-size-fits-all solution like a new large central parking lot/garage, and breaking to parking problem into pieces.
First off, the city government must come to understand that a very large number of parking spaces in the downtown are used only rarely - the best data indicates that except for 2 days a year, there are approximately 200 unused spaces (although personally I think it may be a bit fewer). These 200 spaces alone would make it possible to greatly expand the waterfront park. This would leave the city short 200 more spaces for massive concerts and for the Yankee Homecoming parade day, but it is beyond foolish to preserve parking spaces that are used only twice a year.
Next, the best data indicate that there are over 200 people who work downtown who park illegally every day. I believe that a solution should be found for these parkers.
I feel that the most likely solution is to find places to shoehorn in dedicated parking spaces for these parkers here and there. In my walking about in the downtown, I have come to believe that this is very doable (I am happy to share these ideas with anyone who is interested).
Now, my math says that this totals in the 400 parking space ballpark - just what the doctor ordered for a really great waterfront park.
This leaves one problem unsolved - parking for major events. For these few days, I would suggest that we explore shuttle service with MVRTA or other interested parties. Between large lots at the train station, along Storey Ave, Merrimack St. and elsewhere, I believe that on these days it should not only be possible, it should be easy to intercept cars on their way to downtown and shuttle their passengers in from there.
The numbers work. Getting this solution would take some time and money, but for what I believe would be small money, we can have plenty of parking when and where we need it plus a great central park.
Plus, 10 years from now we will not have to look back with profound regret at what we have permitted to befall a downtown that could have been great, but instead is put to shame by nice places like Haverhill.
Jim Stiles, Newburyport