July 1, 2016

Research Bureau: Worcester needs parking division

SAM BONACCI
The Worcester Regional Research Bureau recommends creating a separate city parking division that can find the proper parking mix and service around redevelopments in downtown, like the Merchantile Center.

A report released Thursday from the Worcester Regional Research Bureau recommends the city create an independent parking division and raise parking rates, so a dedicated staff can give the proper attention to the infrastructure, service and technology improvements necessary for parking to complement the city's redevelopment plans.

Worcester provides 4,685 parking spaces, through garages, surface lots and on-street spaces, and another 550 are expected to come online this year with the opening of the Worcester Common Garage at CitySquare, according to the study. The city Department of Public Works & Parks is responsible for building the spaces while the Parking Services Office -- a subset of the DPWP's Traffic Engineering Section -- is responsible for controlling parking.

In fiscal 2015, the city's parking spaces generated $3.67 million in revenue, although the expenses of running the parking operations used up all but $16,704.

WRRB argues in its report that this structure leaving parking as an afterthought in the city while a separate independent parking division could oversee planning, management, maintenance and enforcement of all parking-related activities. A separate division could also work with urban planners, transportation engineers and economic development experts to have an ongoing conversation about Worcester's parking needs and operations, framed around the overall economic development strategy for the city.

To fund this division, WRRB recommends raising the parking rates in the city and doing away with special parking rate deals for large organizations.

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