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Friday, June 4, 2010

Magoun Square Business Plan - New Parking Regulations + Cake = Success!

Citing concrete data and revenue losing examples, business owners and patrons, drove home the point that before a successful business plan comes into Magoun Square, the unreasonable parking regulations need to go out!

Since the January 4th implementation of the new regulations, some businesses had losses hovering around the 50% range with very little chance of improvement. One restaurant owner talked of Saturday night regulars who were hit with two parking tickets and never returned, while a bar owner pointed out PCOs sprinting across Broadway to slap his delivery driver’s windshield with $100 fines.

Although the meeting was supposed to center around business building initiatives in conjunction with the impending Green Line stop at Lowell Street, Alderman O’Donovan pointed out that the green line conversation has been going on for years and implementation has been postponed numerous times. A year of 2014 has been tossed around, however as Sean asked, “What happens if they come out with a 2020 date? Are we supposed to keep waiting?” One wonders if we should be putting all of our eggs into this green basket.

There is a vicious cycle that is now present in Magoun Square that is propelled by the parking regulations implemented by the current administration. The cycle is as follows: OSPCD conducts their research to find out what the needs of the community are. They can market Magoun Square to these prospective retailers, however, when the retailers realize they have nowhere for their customers or employees to park, they will not bite. The storefronts will remain empty showing both passing potential entrepreneurs, as well as customers, that this is not a viable square to open or do their business in. With no customers, the present businesses will suffer until they eventually go to another, thriving community taking their property tax payments to the city hall of that thriving community. With an empty square, all the passengers on the Green Line car will pass right through the Lowell Street stop as will the motorists and cyclists navigating their way through Magoun Square.

The first initiative should be to pack up the parking regulations and send them on their way out of Magoun Square. The second initiative should focus on doing everything possible to create a vibrant, customer and business friendly square, then to have the green line come in and accentuate it and make the already established square available to the masses.

There is a parking study being conducted, specifically targeting Magoun and Davis Square and consists of car counting. By car counting, the plan is to price meters by demand; the higher the demand, the higher the price. Besides the obvious that .25¢ for 15 minutes is driving away customers and that charging $2 may not be the best approach, one business owner pointed out last night that this study was not conducted prior to the regulation change, therefore, there is no viable comparison to be made. Furthermore, who needs a study when you can just ask the business owners what has happened since the parking changes started to be enforced. You will hear a constant theme of empty tables, layoffs, price cutting to drive up business, early closings to save money, loss of revenue, and a serious consideration of leaving the city altogether.

During construction of the square all parking meters were removed to assist ailing businesses that suffered, due to lack of sidewalks and increased traffic in the square from the influx of construction vehicles. When asked how business was during these meter-less times, Olde Magoun’s Saloon owner Greg Coughlin admitted that it had increased and he had a nice lunch crowd that came in.

Funny, people will walk a skinny, dangerous plank to have lunch in Magoun Square as long as they are not in danger of getting a parking ticket.

Wait, I could be on to creating a new cycle for the square. My cycle is as follows: No meters equals increased business. Increased business equals a desire for people to open a business in Magoun Square, so much so, that the residents have a say as to who is granted a store-front. The store-fronts cater to the needs of the residents to the point where people will want to live in this area. This will spread so far and furious that people will be coming from all over the place to visit Magoun Square, thus, causing all the parking spots to get taken up, but that’s ok because they don’t have to drive in. They can take the green line. And, you’re welcome for the cake.


Charlie said...

The challenge for parking in any business district is finding the right balance. Throughout the day, you always want to have a certain number of vacant spaces so that people who do travel there by car can easily find a space and expect to be able to. Since the number of spaces are finite, the two ways to encourage this parking turnover is through pricing and time limits. If parking is free and unrestricted, what you often find is that shop-owners and employees will use the prime curbside spaces all day, leaving none available for customers. Typically, curbside spaces are priced more expensively and limited to shorter time periods so that customers who want to drop in and out can do so easily. The spaces in public lots are usually cheaper and have longer time restrictions so that employees or customers staying for a while can use them.

I would be interested to know what percentage of customers come to Magoun Square by walking, bicycling, transit, or private automobile. Often times I've found that business owners overestimate how many of their customers drive to their establishment. Particularly if parking is hard to find or expensive, those customers who do drive will be the most likely to complain to the shop-owner, whereas the customers who came by other modes would probably not say anything.

KelseyRoth said...

Great article! I think Charlie has a valid point there. I think a compromise can certainly be worked out. We saw how before permit parking was put in place on Lowell Street how commuters would park on Lowell for free all day and take the bus in to Boston. Parking on Lowell was almost impossible for the residents who lived there. If we remove meters from Medford Street altogether, I'm afraid people would park there all day/all night. Sometimes time limits are good. I think a compromise is possible and workable at a reasonable price.

Courtney said...

Thanks for both of your comments!

Obviously, I wanted to go to the extreme when I described my "cycle" for Magoun Square.

I absolutely agree with a compromise because, currently, the parking regulations are completely unreasonable and killing business.

I am also interested in the data you're referring to, Charlie. That would've been a great percentage to have pulled, lets say, before implementing parking changes...just saying! It would be great if the OSPCD considered that while doing their research I described in the article.