Letter: Council’s Plans For Garage Are Incomprehensible

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The following letter was sent to members of the Amherst Town Council and to Town Planner Christine Brestrup on December 17, 2021.

I’m finding myself utterly confused by the process you appear to be employing toward evaluating where a parking garage should be located.

First off, what is your rationale for even pursuing the creation of one?  The Town of Amherst commissioned and paid for two parking studies, one in 2008 and one in 2016, when the propsect of a garage was a hot topic.   Both studies came to the same conclusion, and I will quote from the 2016 study, which I wish you would all read. It has a wealth of valuable information.

Key Findings:  

  • The study area has nearly 400 more parking spaces overall than would be recommended by a traditional demand model that assumes every use needs its own dedicated parking.
  • The shared parking demand model and actual observed data both show that the study area actually has a surplus of 1,200 spaces at peak demand.  
  • When run through the shared parking demand model, both an expected development scenario and a maximum development scenario show that future parking demand can be accommodated within existing facilities. 

As you can see by the third key finding, even when they accounted for a maximum development scenario, “future parking demand can be accommodated within existing facilities”

So, my first question:  What data are you using that prompts you to pursue the creation of a parking garage in downtown Amherst?  Next, let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that somehow, you have reliable data that solidly refutes a study done by a respected firm like Nelson/Nygaard.  The next step would be to find a location.  

Here is my next question:  What study have you and/or the Planning Department done to look at various sites downtown? 

You are looking at one site in particular, the town lot behind the CVS, that has glaring problems associated with it, so to be going through the effort of proposing a zoning change and of already working with a developer, you must have rejected other sites of interest, such as Pray Street or the parking lot across the street from the library, to name just two alternative sites.

If you could answer those two questions, then people in town who are upset about your process, like me, would at least understand your thinking, and the measurable data, science if you will, behind your actions.

Gerry Weiss

Gerry Weiss, a psychotherapist, was a member of the Amherst Select Board from 2004 to 2010 and a member of Town Meeting for 19 years.

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