Sunday, July 14, 2024

The proposed developer of the East Cambridge courthouse, Leggat McCall, seeks a lease for 420 parking passes in the city-owned First Street Garage to move ahead. The City Council will consider approval of the garage lease shortly. Residents and city councillors asked the city manager to provide a parking study to determine if this lease would affect parking in the neighborhood adversely. That study is now available.

A summary provided by the city manager says “there is ample parking within the study area to accommodate the anticipated 336 new daily parkers (based on 80 percent utilization of 420 parking passes) at all times of the day” and that analysis of existing parking supply “within the study area is significantly higher than parking demand, even if parking capacity at the CambridgeSide mall is reduced in the future due to any redevelopment of portions of that site.”

But Figure 2 of the summary indicates that this is true only if people, including residents, pay to use commercial lots. In that figure, utilization of garage parking on a typical workday in February is shown. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., there are fewer than 400 available parking spaces. In fact, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. there usually are fewer than 300 available spaces. In an hour when today there are only 188 free spaces, a future with 336 new users occupying spaces means some current users will have to park elsewhere suggests 148 drivers could be looking for on-street parking.

And how many on the street spaces might be available? The summary does not provide hour-by-hour figures, but does say that at 11 a.m. on weekdays, 81 percent of on-street spaces are occupied. There are 1,001 on-street spaces. When 81 percent of these spaces are occupied (810 spaces) there will be 191 unoccupied spaces on the street – but with the proposed garage use, that suddenly goes up to 96 percent of spaces being occupied. And the report does not include data on the parking needs of employees and patrons of the Leggat McCall development who will need parking but do not have parking passes. How can the report conclude that there will be ample parking? 

Further, the report is based on 2019 data, while the lease is for 30 years. Nowhere in the summary of the report are there data on projected parking needs in East Cambridge over the terms of the lease.

Contrary to its stated conclusion, the parking study indicates that leasing 420 spaces to a private developer will adversely affect parking for residents and all visitors for the next 30 years. Based on these data, the city should not approve this lease.

Henry H. Wortis, Berkshire Street