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Cambridge Moves Ahead with Restrictions on Parking

By Michael A. Saginaw
Associate News Editor

In a proposal which is sure to cost students hundreds of dollars and hours of inconvenience, the Cambridge Traffic and Parking Office has recommended that the city modify 519 currently unrestricted parking spaces around MIT.

Under the recommended plan, which could take effect this summer, 74 of the 519 spaces will be eliminated entirely for safety reasons, because they are too close to railroads or intersections. Other spaces will be restricted to two-hour parking only, and several will get parking meters. In other places, mostly along Amherst Street near the west campus dormitories, parking will be restricted to cars which are registered with the city of Cambridge and have Massachusetts license plates.

Parking on Memorial Drive will not be affected.

Reduce auto emissions

The purpose of these parking restrictions is to reduce auto emissions and improve air quality to meet federal standards. One effective way to reduce pollution is to offer incentives for people to cut down on short car trips, according to Cambridge officials.

"Studies show there is a lot of short term traffic going on in the MIT area. These regulations eliminate that type of traffic by encouraging the use of mass transit," said Brian Kerry at the Traffic and Parking Office.

According to Kerry, the plan is for students who will no longer be able to park on campus to park in long-term lots that are accessible by public transportation. They can leave their cars there for long periods of time and access their cars via public transportation when they need them, such as on the weekends.

However, students feel that the city is overlooking their needs. "For the surrounding streets of the school, it's really obnoxious to put meters up," said Lisa E. Cohen '94. "I understand that they have to try to control air quality, but they're really not considering the needs of MIT students --especially because the winters are really harsh here, and the [Harvard] bridge is heinous in the winter."

Other students are dismayed that these restrictions will make an already bad parking situation even worse. "Most people have to spend 10 to 15 minutes trying to find a space. They should at least open up some more spots by Westgate. They could make it a slightly bigger parking lot. I really don't think making people park far away will make it easy for people," said Errhung Yuan '94.

From 1990 until last year, the city was operating under a parking freeze and could not allocate any new parking spaces. Now the city can add new spaces, but for every new space, Cambridge must restrict two other spaces, for example by installing a meter.

The Traffic and Parking Office decided what kind of parking each street should have based on the street's economic activities. For example, some streets have mostly businesses and some are lined with residences.

At public hearings, city officials announced their plans and asked citizens about their concerns and recommendations. He said the Traffic and Parking Office also took into account letters they received from citizens.

Kerry said that the recently submitted proposal is vastly different from the original plan.

Before any restrictions can take effect, the city has to post signs and publish the information about the restrictions to make people aware of them. Kerry said that restrictions would probably be put in place this summer, but he added that it could be sooner or later depending on how quickly the city reviews the recommendations from the Traffic and Parking Office.