Parking for the Public Good

The growth of real estate development along the main thoroughfare of South Boston has been enormous in the past ten years. We at South Boston Online have noticed all the new restaurants, boutiques, and dense new residential housing that has been added along Broadway, and simultaneously-the addition of more cars. In a crisis of unending tickets and triple parking, local businesses struggle to keep patrons coming simply because finding parking is such a hassle. The developers have been very busy in South Boston, and the time for public parking garages is long overdue.

Imagine a future when you go shopping in South Boston and simply park your car in a garage near your shopping destination, or driving down Broadway without dogging parked cars. For this to happen, South Boston needs two parking garages strategically located: one near Perkins Square, and one on lower East Broadway. Public parking garages in general do not come about unless there is significant planning, and for that planning to occur on a city level, the business community has to be organized enough to focus upon engaging the city. The affirmative answer seems pretty unanimous when you ask citizens of South Boston if parking is needed, but the sticky wicket is how many car spaces, and deciding exactly where the garages will go.

From an urban planning perspective, the city of Boston has a little bit more leverage when setting up the standards and providing space for such parking-the same city that has been approving increased density of South Boston without really attending to the parking problem. Any parking garage planned with more than 50 spaces must have a management plan approved by the Boston Department of Transportation. We think it is obvious that if you build garages, they have to be substantial enough to provide enough volume in order to be cost effective. Building on West Broadway in logical locations like the current Athens Street lot, seems like a forgone conclusion, but for the objections of a small number of residents. The question is if the city is willing to generously compensate property owners in order to make space for sizable public parking. Approaching this issue will require a little courage on the part of our city councilors to do the right thing for the public good.

In the case of lower East Broadway, the concept of adding parking spaces to a new enlarged library with great community space has been given some thought. It makes a lot of sense to build a new library branch, but residents who think South Boston deserves a new library would have to join business people to advocate for such a plan with the city. This kind of urban planning is not done without some disruption, but if the community agrees that doing so serves two common goods: building a significantly enlarged, modern branch library in a beautiful location, and making parking available to fit the needs of thirty small business on East Broadway; then somehow urban planners can design a plan. We are not saying that these specific suggestions are even the right ones to consider, but putting an end to double and triple parking down Broadway is a smart move, and parking garages are the answer. Other communities have devised such plans with the city, so there is no reason why South Boston can’t do the same.

Jeanne Rooney

Jeanne Rooney is the Editor in Chief for South Boston Online.