Parking is not the solution

(Apologies to whoever thought “Panhandling is not the solution” should be the slogan of Worcester)

I haven’t been attending City Council meetings because I’ve been otherwise occupied on Tuesday evenings.

But even I couldn’t ignore D3 Councilor George Russell’s battle cry:

This is Worcester, we need parking.”

To which one can only respond with a resounding No!

Councilor Russell is to be commended for using Facebook to communicate with constituents; the wall is, unfortunately, not readable for non-FB users.  Here are more of his thoughts on parking:

One can only wonder which projects in Worcester have failed without enough parking.  Surely a lack of parking was not the reason the Galleria (and her daughter, the Worcester Common Fashion Outlets) failed.

The problems of Worcester do not stem from a lack of parking.  They stem from a lack of vision and, especially, an inability to be brave and creative in long-term planning.

The problem is not that “too many times urban planners use Boston standards while designing projects.”  The problem is that we only see Worcester for what it is now and do not demand that our city be the best Worcester it can be.  And “best” does not involve more parking.

In the In Our Time newsletter, Melvin Bragg quoted Beatrice Han-Pile, who quoted Foucault as saying that “you can’t change a culture without changing its institutions.”

With apologies to Bragg, Han-Pile, and Foucault, we can’t change Worcester without changing the Worcester mindset.

There is a generation coming up — of people my age and younger — who want to live in densely populated, vibrant urban areas.  These are people we want to be encouraging to live in downtown Worcester.

We need to plan our downtown for people who might want (and choose) options that don’t fit into the real estate agent single-home-on-a-quarter-acre-lot paradigm.

There are people who want to be able to walk to work.  They don’t need to own a car.  They would like access to good public transportation and car-sharing services like ZipCar.

Some of the things that would encourage them:

  • quality, affordable housing
  • a variety of businesses and restaurants (including — gasp! — food trucks)
  • welcoming public spaces (parks, pedestrian streets, trees)
  • employment they can walk or bike to

Notice “parking garage” is not on that list.

First, we already have plenty of parking garages.  As Tim McGourthy noted, the old mall East and West Garages remain.  We have two municipal garages within blocks of CitySquare.  And — lest we forget — we’ve already spent $20 million on the garage at Union Station.  We would be far better to make sure that pedestrian access to and from the Union Station garage was safe (and obvious), rather than construct additional garages.

Second, we need to be planning for the city we want to have, not the city we already have.

We already live in a city that requires a car to get to many places (or to get to many places in a reasonable amount of time, or after a certain hour).  Do we always want to live in that city?

We already live in a city that considers parking first and public transportation last.  Do we always want to live in that city?

Parking should not be an automatic necessity, and public transportation shouldn’t always be relegated to the nice-to-have category.

The Standing Committee on Economic Development will be continuing this discussion next Tuesday at 5:30pm.

I would rather the committee spent an hour discussing 11 (no, 12!) new uses  for old churches rather than further maintenance the status quo.  The taxpayers of the city have paid enough for parking garages.

Now let’s get on with the business of discussing whether this DIF is what we need.

Bring It

Following up on yesterday’s post, the Worcester Police have a new announcement:

The Worcester Police Department is pleased to announce the launch of its new official Facebook page, YouTube Channel and Nixle notification service.

The department will use Facebook to post the latest news, updates, alerts, advisors and crime prevention methods. Residents are encouraged to “like” the page to receive newsfeeds from the department and stay current on important information. Through the department’s facebook page, a weekly bulletin will be posted which will highlight the news of the week. The goal is to reach a large number of people in an efficient way.

The Worcester Police Department YouTube Channel will feature video productions on department programs and initiatives, events, and behind the scenes glimpses into the department. Subscribers will be able to view a combination of interviews and video footage along with informative stories.

I’m not even going to criticize the lack of links (either on the press release or on the city website).

I’ve found links for the Worcester PD on Twitter and NixleIf someone has a link to the new-and-improved Facebook page, or the YouTube Channel, please send it along.

Tracy directed me to their official Facebook page, which then helped me find their official Youtube site.