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Parking Monitoring and Management in Cambridge

Parking Monitoring and Management in Cambridge

By Christopher Cullen and Chirag Patel and Michael Moriarty

Advisor: Theodore Crusberg

Co-Advisor: Michelle Ephraim

Executive Summary

For years, the City of Cambridge has pursued a cleaner environment and a higher quality of life for city residents through City ordinances, regulations, and other measures aimed at decreasing traffic and increasing the use of environment-friendly modes of transportation. These measures have ranged from the parking freeze in 1984 which set a limit on the total number of commercial parking spaces in Cambridge (partially in order to conform with die federally-implemented Clean Air Act), to the recent Parking and Transportation Demand Management Ordinance which requires organizations to implement numerous measures aimed at decreasing employee reliance on single-occupant vehicles for commuting to work. The Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department (TPTD), one of several city departments that work together with the objective of improving the transit options available to city residents and reducing the impact of these means of transportation on the environment, currently monitors the use of parking resources in the city and their role in dealing with traffic issues.

While the City has conducted inventories of parking facilities in previous years, there is no method for systematically confirming or updating this information. The TPTD's effort to manage and monitor parking resources in the city is hindered by this lack of a comprehensive and current source of information. The prior inventories of off-street and on-street parking resources did not take advantage of the City's advanced capabilities in graphically depicting and analyzing this information.

The main goal of this project was to develop a new system that facilitated access to a currant inventory of parking resources and allowed this information to be depicted graphically. The team designed a new Microsoft Access database for storing, accessing, and analyzing information for on-street and off-street resources that incorporates both the data from the department's old inventories and the new data gathered from the project's study area. We developed and demonstrated a systematic method for cataloging all parking resources in a geographic region of the city and delivered this in the form of a standard operating procedure that can be utilized by the city when implementing similar inventories in other neighborhoods. The collected data was represented graphically in the form of map layers which were linked to the database in order to illustrate the advantages of using the Geographic Information System resources already available at the TPTD to display and manipulate this data and to study geographical relationships between the parking resources.

In order to demonstrate the analytical capabilities of our system we developed thematic maps and other similar spatial analyses, examples of which included maps representing the relation between residential populations to available parkin2 resources using Census data for individual Such a study would allow the TPD to better identify imbalances between the parking needs of particular neighborhoods and the availability of parking resources in those areas. This in turn would enable them to proactively deal with parking issues in problem areas through early identification.

Other analyses included identification of discrepancies between actual field data and the information possessed by the Traffic and Parking Department through the use of color-coded maps depicting locations of those particular facilities and the types of discrepancies that exist.

The maps created by the project team illustrating locations of off-street parking lots combined with a description of the usage of each of these lots, such as commercial, public etc. will allow for a study of the balance in types of parking available. Availability of data on off-street lots linked to map layers with outlines of lots and their configurations will make it easier for a new user to access data about a lot by reducing ambiguities in identification of lots, such as those with multiple addresses listed. This would also eliminate the reliance on experienced department members with an extensive knowledge of these resources as it would make a dear picture available to all users. Multiple layers illustrating the various types and numbers of parking spaces in a region along with traffic and population information will aid the department in making permit granting decisions. Such a visual representation will also enable planning of future surveys, something that the current mechanism does not allow. Above and beyond the actual uses of the data collected, the standard operating procedures developed for gathering data on parking resources in other neighborhoods will prove useful in ensuring compatibility of data gathered by different individuals over the course of time.

In the larger context, having access to a comprehensive and current database of parking resources will help the City in fulfilling an important departmental goal which is to balance the economic needs of businesses with the concerns of the members of the community. Parking plays a very important role in of the lives of local residents, so much so that they are willing to put in a significant amount of time and effort to ensure that the City is aware of any perceived parking problems. This was amply demonstrated by the residents of the Riverside neighborhood who presented the TPTI) with results of a residential parking supply inventory performed by them as part of a lobbying effort against expansion in the neighborhood by Harvard University. In the future, instead of having to conduct case-by-case studies to verify claims made by residents, the City will be able to negotiate such issues based on the comprehensive data available through the new parking management tool.

At the completion of this project, the group concluded that the City needed to begin streamlining its data-gathering mechanisms in order to avoid the unnecessary expenditure caused by various departments maintaining separate databases on parking resources. We recommend that the TPTD use this new system to create a centralized database that multiple departments can access. This will not only keep the available information current, but will also help avoid discrepancies in data used by different departments. The project should further be extended to cover the entire city using the standard operating procedures developed by the team so as to provide current and accurate data that will allow efficient management and monitoring of all parking resources in Cambridge.

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