Monday, January 10, 2011

Riverside lot not for Newton residents

Natick man got a ticket from Wellesley the day he parked in Newton, in the Riverside lot. Funny story. Wellesley town staff used a hand-held ticketing scanner, supposedly coded not to issue tickets, to do a license-place survey of cars in the Riverside lot. But, they accidentally issued tickets on the surveyed cars.

Why is Wellesley doing a survey of an MBTA lot in Newton? Because the town wants to know the transportation choices that its residents make. And, enough of them are presumably using the Riverside lot to matter. And, apparently, folks from Natick, too.

How, exactly, is this good for Newton?


dr2chase said...

Suppose they weren't using the Riverside lot. Wouldn't they be driving through Newton instead? That's got to count for something. And, by putting fare-payers on the Green Line, they help the financial standing of the MBTA, which needs every scrap it can get.

I would ask, does the lot run full? Because if it does, they should raise the rates, till there is usually a little empty space. This should (in theory) maximize revenue, and might even increase ridership if it pushed some people to carpool, or to use alternate means to get there (thus freeing up spaces for people willing to pay more).

Sean Roche said...

Presumably, they'd be getting on 128 or the pike, which are technically "through Newton."

The larger question is what is the best use of this lot. Developing it without as large a commuter lot would create a larger opportunity for car-light living. Anyone living in Natick or Wellesley and driving to Riverside is unlikely otherwise living a low-driving existence.

And, a fully-developed Riverside without a commuter parking obligation would produce more revenue for Newton.

dr2chase said...

I think we are returning to question of carrot/stick calibration.

It's a Big Deal for someone who lives in Natick, who works on the Green Line, to go car-light. Shrinking parking lots is sort of a nasty, unpredictable cost, versus increasing the rates until you have empty spaces. That way, it's "unpleasant" for the guy from Natick, but it is a predictable unpleasant. People in close, the cost will seem to high to them (relative to their larger set of options) and they will go car-light.

The problem with a tiny lot, is that people in close have the best chance at using it (closer -- if everyone leaves at the same time, they get there first) so the people who could most easily go car-light, don't, and those for who it would be harder, are screwed. It also has an extra-bad effect on carpooling -- if people carpool from Natick (a good thing, right?) and find no space at the small lot, they are double or triple screwed.

Consider this experiment -- you have a goal lot size. There is a fee for parking in the lot, that will result in that many cars in the current lot (with lots of empty space). Someone needs to determine what that fee is. You could do it experimentally. And if that experiment enrages commuters, well, "ahem".

Sean Roche said...

You're onto the right issue. We need to change land use regionally so that there are more options for the guy in Natick to go car-light.

The question is whether we should subsidize the half-solution of park-and-ride or go all-in on the right green solution for the site, without worrying too much about the impact on Mr. Natick?

Asking what the right price is for the lot presumes an answer to the larger question of what's best for the site. If you were a developer and had unconstrained rights to the site, how many parking spaces would you set aside for commuter parking?

If I were the developer, none. The return on capital for a commuter parking space is going to be much less than a commercial or residential use. If I'm the City of Newton, I'd much rather have the vitality and revenue of commercial or residential uses. And, if I'm interested in carbon reduction, a mixed-use development has much more overall potential for carbon reduction than does park-and-ride.

I just don't see any argument for the commuter lot other than it will be tough on Mr. Natick. But, Mr. Natick isn't going to change his lifestyle until he has to live with the costs of his lifestyle.

dr2chase said...

Yeah, but contrast this to your previous entry, where the developer DOES NOT want a parking structure, because that is seen as a (unintentional) "stick" that discourages use of cars.

I guess my worry is that drastic change is costly, and unpredictable costs are worse than predictable ones. Also, I fear the "whoops, out of money" half-implemented solution. My gut feeling is that we would be better off doing small targeted improvements really well, letting everyone see how well they can work, and then do more of them. Big "new" projects make people nervous (though, it's interesting how big road projects manage to get done, isn't it?)

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