Sound off now on downtown New Bedford parking

SouthCoast Today: Our View
Posted Mar 1, 2018 at 8:20 PM

Find the survey at

Everyone has a gripe about parking.

There’s not enough of it. The meters run out too quickly and the fines are too high. Parking officers are mean. The garages are too far from my workplace. And on and on and on.

If you’ve been aching to sound off about parking issues in downtown New Bedford, now is the time to do it.

State and city planners want to hear your concerns, your user experiences and yes, your complaints. Think of it like this: If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity now, you might lose the high ground when you feel like complaining later.

The first way to make your thoughts known is by completing a survey. It’s sitting online right now, waiting to be filled out by visitors, workers, residents, business owners, students and anyone else with a reason to park, drive or do business in downtown New Bedford. Responses will be collected for three to four weeks.

The survey shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to complete, and it’s filled with questions that get to the heart of the downtown parking issues:

• How long does it take you to find a parking space?

• Where do you park most frequently?

• Have you ever left downtown because you were unable to find parking?

• And this one — which might be everybody’s favorite: What else would you like to tell us about parking downtown?

But the survey is only one part of a comprehensive study. The second way to be heard is during two public workshops next Tuesday (March 6). The first is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a roving tent downtown. The second runs from 5-7:30 p.m. in the conference room of UMass Dartmouth’s Star Store campus at 715 Purchase St. in New Bedford.

Jim McKeag, a fellow with MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, says the idea is to look at parking issues from different viewpoints and find smart solutions.

McKeag and others have heard concerns about parking from multiple sources in New Bedford — business owners, customers, public officials and more. And with the understanding that you can’t take a serious look at a problem in one small area unless you put it into the larger context, New Bedford’s parking study will gather information on both the city’s waterfront and its downtown area.

MassDevelopment, which manages State Pier; the Harbor Development Commission, which oversees harbor facilities; and the city are sharing the $75,000 price tag. Results will be collected and analyzed alongside additional research by Stantec Consulting Services.

The study area will include all of the downtown area, bounded by Kempton Street to the north, Walnut Street to the south, County Street to the west, and Route 18 to the east — plus the school administration building on County Street. Waterfront areas include the Whale’s Tooth parking lot, Pier 3, State Pier, Steamship Pier, Homer’s Wharf, Leonard’s Wharf, and available space at the Eversource site.

So what happens after the info is collected? Well, we’ve been assured that it’s not simply to write a report and file it away in some three-ring binder.

McKeag says the survey dives deep into parking behavior — how people use the existing parking and why they park in one place instead of another. So the responses might lead to sensible adjustments that bring big results.

The city might need different regulations for different users. Or officials might want to change the time limits on some meters. Maybe the price could be adjusted between parking garages and downtown meters. And maybe there simply needs to be more permanent spaces.

Planners intend to share their results with the public when Stantec completes its research.

It all sounds good to us, especially with the growing links between downtown and the city’s working waterfront — ferry service, restaurants, the hotel and a growing tourism industry.

We encourage everyone with an interest in parking to fill out the survey and attend Tuesday’s meeting. The effort could bring meaningful results. Plus, you’ll get the chance to gripe about parking with someone who is actually listening.

Original story here.