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City Proposes Parking Changes

By Aaron Belenky
Advertising Manager

On Tuesday evening, the City of Cambridge held a meeting with MIT students and staff to discuss drastic changes to on-street parking proposed by the city.

The meeting focused on the changes to MIT parking spaces. The plan calls for the modification of 689 currently unrestricted spaces around MIT, including the elimination of 120 spots. Parking in the remaining spots would be limited to under two hours, metered, or limited to Cambridge residents.

Parking on Memorial Drive, which is controlled by the Metropolitan District Commission, would not be affected.

The proposed changes, as well as the reasons for the changes were presented by Loren Preston from the Cambridge Traffic and Parking Office, which is in charge of reallocating the parking spaces. The meeting was attended by about 25 members of the MIT community, mostly students with cars who are upset by the current parking situation and even more disturbed by the proposed changes.

The negative reaction prompted Preston to say he would take the people's concerns and recommendations back with him, and try to modify the plans before his office made its final recommendations to the city.

Cambridge is facing a mandate by the federal government to improve its air quality. As part of the measures, Cambridge officials are reorganizing parking in the city. From 1990 until last year, Cambridge was operating under a parking freeze. The freeze limited the number of on-street parking spaces available. This stifled business growth and caused headaches for residents and commuters alike, Preston said.

In 1992, the policy was changed to allow a limited number of additional parking spaces to be allocated. Under the existing plan, for every two unrestricted parking spaces that are converted to some form of restricted parking, the city would be allowed to create one new space.

Students, staff express concerns

MIT students and staff present at the meeting expressed their desire for closer cooperation with the Metropolitan Boston Transportation Authority. They asked that the Traffic and Parking Office make the reallocation of spaces contingent upon improvements to the MBTA public transportation system.

They also felt that Cambridge had failed to recognize some of the unique conditions of MIT residents. Specifically, they felt that the city was gearing its parking program towards 9 to 5 business workers, which is not typical of many members of the MIT community. They contended that the city definition of a resident for parking purposes -- a person who resides as a legal resident of Cambridge with a vehicle registered in Cambridge -- excludes MIT students. This definition prohibits MIT students with vehicles registered out-of-state from parking in resident-only areas.

All of the students at the meeting seemed very upset by the change in parking policy. Students felt that parking is presently difficult, and would only be made worse by the new proposal. In addition, they questioned whether the plan would be effective in achieving the desired effects.

Preston responded to these concerns by outlining the city's official position. He said that the Traffic and Parking Office had no jurisdiction over the MBTA, and would be unable to connect the parking restructuring with MBTA improvements. He also said that the city was not in the business of providing services to out-of-state students who were not tax-paying citizens of Cambridge.

According to Preston, the changes would take effect this summer at the earliest. Before any plans are finalized, the Traffic and Parking Office needs to make its recommendations to the Cambridge City Council. If approved by the council, the plan would be presented at the federal level. If approved there, it would take effect. The existing parking spaces would then be changed over a period of time.

The meeting concluded with Preston going over each section scheduled to be changed, detailing the proposed changes, and receiving feedback from the audience about the effectiveness and inconvenience of each proposed change.