Metering the Response from Businesses in the Central Business District
On August 28, the City of Framingham’s Facilities Department presented a proposal to the Framingham Traffic Commission on the installation of parking meters along the main routes of the Central Business District, namely Concord, Hollis, and Irving streets along with Union Avenue. This proposal to install the 146 credit-card operated, solar-powered meters included a rate recommendation similar to Boston -- $1.25 per hour or $2.00 for two hours with a two-hour maximum duration.
Last summer, Downtown Framingham, Inc. shared support from over twenty downtown businesses to implement two-hour, on-street parking signs along the main commercial corridors in downtown Framingham, which was endorsed by the Traffic Roadway and Safety Commission and approved by the Board of Selectmen in June 2017. Following this step in downtown parking management, the former Town Manager, Bob Halpin, shared with NBC Boston that parking meters would next be purchased and installed.
From September 4 through 14, Robert Mitchell, the Business Development Manager for Downtown Framingham, Inc., interviewed a sample of 40 businesses representing six business verticals along the impacted commercial corridors in the Central Business District to collect feedback on this parking management tool.
The results were fairly close - 55 percent of businesses supported the installation of meters while 45 percent opposed meter installation. DFI will break down the reasons driving these responses while exposing the responses by business vertical.
2 Main Themes
- In general, most businesses expressed concern about the relationship between on-street parking management and the perceived lack of off-street parking for employees, residents and customers.
- Two worries were often repeated - customers would not pay for parking and ultimately cause business failure and downtown employees would seek employment elsewhere after losing the convenience of free, on-street parking.
4 Reasons Businesses Want Metered Parking
Meters keep people moving – Business owners felt that meters will prompt customers to make good use of their shopping time and free up off-street parking for another paying customer.
Meters make it easier to find parking- Some businesses felt that with well-marked, on-street parking, customers will have increased ease about finding a parking spot which will lead to more return trips.
Appearance of a parking surplus - Some businesses felt that customers from outside of the downtown area will perceive that on-street parking is more plentiful with visible meters on a timer. The business owners elaborated that this step will be evidence that Framingham has a solid downtown parking plan.
Prevents parking spot abuse - Business owners in favor of meters felt that valuable parking spots are currently abused by both downtown residents and employees. Placing a time limit on metered parking helps ensure that parking will be protected for customers only.
6 Reasons Businesses Oppose Metered Parking
Parking should be paid for by the City - Business owners feel they foot a steep commercial tax bill, and these same taxes should provide for ample, free parking in downtown Framingham.
Parking is needed for employees - There is widespread concern from business owners that metered parking will permanently take on-street parking spaces that are needed for their employees. They felt that without the on-street parking for employees, working downtown will become too difficult for employees who may seek a new job elsewhere.
No parking for delivery drivers - Many downtown restaurants provide food delivery services. On-street meters may remove the needed, convenient parking used by these delivery drivers who make touch-and-go trips. Impacted business owners fear their delivery service times will increase, hurting their chances of repeat delivery service.
Meters will be a deterrent to customers coming from outside of downtown - Some feel that customers will see meters and decide it is not worth the hassle as ample parking is free along Route 9.
Scrutiny over meter revenue - Some business owners might support parking meters in the future if they knew exactly how the parking revenue would be expended. Business owners expressed concern that meters are just another means to get more money from an already overtaxed downtown business area without adding any real value.
Off-street parking lot spaces won’t be available for employees - Businesses that provide off-street parking lot spaces to their employees and customers fear that paid meters will drive other customers, residents, and displaced employees to use the off-street parking that is direly needed for their own employees and business customers.
BREAKDOWN BY BUSINESS VERTICAL
Of the seven restaurants interviewed, four favored meters while three opposed parking meters.
Furniture and Home Goods
Of the eight furniture and home goods stores interviewed, five favored parking meters while three opposed parking meters.
Of the seven grocery stores interviewed, five were in favor of meters while two were opposed.
Salon and Beauty Supply
Of the six businesses interviewed, one favored parking meters while five did not.
Automotive and Tool Rental
Of the three businesses interviewed, two favored meters while one did not.
Technology and Service Providers
Of the nine businesses interviewed, five were in favor of meters while four were opposed to parking meters.
Downtown Framingham, Inc. will continue to gauge the response to downtown parking management tools that directly impact commerce in the Central Business District by sharing data and driving solutions with both public and private stakeholders.
Courtney Thraen and Robert Mitchell of Downtown Framingham, Inc. contributed to this report.