Our Streets Are Not Safe! Residents Support New Parking Restrictions For Lincoln And Sunset Avenue
Report On The Meeting Of The Town Services And Outreach Committee, October 13, 2022
The meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. The packet for the meeting can be found here.
Anika Lopes (Chair, District 4) Dorothy Pam (District 3), Ana Devline Gauthier (District 5), Andy Steinberg (at large). Absent: Shalini Bahl-Milne (District 5)
Staff: Paul Bockelman (Town Manager), Athena O’Keefe (Clerk of Council)
Presenters: Councilor Jennifer Taub (District 3), Tracy Zafian (Chair, Transportation Advisory Committee)
Public Hearing: Hope Community Church Parking On Gaylord Street
Hope church has requested reservation of three spaces in front of the church on Gaylord Street for their use.
Town Manager Paul Bockelman provided background on the request and asked, “How can we do this and be consistent with the way the town handles parking?” Parking spaces are in demand on Gaylord Street because of its proximity to downtown and available parking is now by permit. Many downtown churches have bags to put over meters for special occasions. Although there are no meters in front of Hope Church, they would like to have the same opportunities as other churches. Bockelman proposed designating three spaces in front of the church for use by the church when they need it (e.g for services and funerals.). The town would give the church three plastic stanchions to use when needed and the spaces would be permit-parking at other times. Reverend Carols at the church found this proposal agreeable.
James Barna and Sophia Pers spoke in favor of the proposal during public comment.
The proposal passed unanimously (4-0 with one absent).
Public Hearing On Proposed Changes To Parking Regulations For Lincoln Avenue, Sunset Avenue And Elm Street
The following proposed changes to parking regulations were considered at the public hearing:
- To prohibit parking on the East Side of Lincoln Ave. between McClellan St. and Amity St. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday;
- To prohibit parking on the east side of Sunset Ave. between Elm St. and Amity St. at all times;
- To prohibit parking on one side of Elm St. at all times.
Councilor Jennifer Taub (District 3) previously brought a motion to Town Council for the proposed changes to Lincoln Avenue.
She reviewed the history of her motion and noted that increased traffic and parking on Lincoln has created grave safety concerns. She stated in her memo:
Over the past several years, Lincoln Avenue between McClellan and Amity has experienced an increasing volume of cars parked bumper-to-bumper on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00.p.m during the academic year. With no parking restrictions of any kind on this residential street, cars are free to park 24/7, and do so, sometimes for days at a time. Lincoln Avenue is outside the boundaries of the Town Center Permit Parking and those without permits utilize the street for all-day parking.
The presence of so many cars parked so close together from morning to evening has adversely impacted traffic flow and created an unsafe situation as cars park right up to the driveways, obstructing sightlines as residents back out of their driveways. On more than one occasion, when vehicles have partially (or completely) blocked the entrance to the driveway of a home with a medical emergency, ambulances have been forced to park several houses away. This was emphasized at a recent District 3 meeting, when the Chair of the Board of Health cited this issue — parked cars impeding EMT access to driveways — as a major medical concern and health risk for residents of Lincoln Avenue.
Parking on Lincoln Avenue has created a potentially hazardous situation when the parking inhibits the travel of cars going north and south simultaneously. It has also created challenges to residents exiting their driveways and has made safe biking a concern. Because of the width of the roadway, it is not wide enough to accommodate two lanes of travel plus one parking lane. The on-street parking is extensive on the street and causes site concerns at the McClellan and Elm Street intersections.
In a Power Point presentation she further observed that:
- Lincoln Avenue has long been used as a through-street from UMass To Amity and Northampton Road
- In the fall of 2023, 824 new residents will be moving into the north section of Lincoln when two new UMass dormitories open at the corners of Lincoln and Massachusetts Avenues. Only 100 parking spaces will be provided for these 824residents, turning Lincoln into a long-term parking lot for the dorm residents
- The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) has stated, “No other neighborhood is facing such a rapid increase in nearby residents, related traffic, and parking demand, with limited on-site parking supply.”
Recommendations Of The Transportation Advisory Committee
Tracy Zafian, Chair of TAC, reviewed a memo TAC has written in support of the proposed changes. The committee voted 5-0 with one absent to send the following changes to TSO.
- Prohibit parking on the east side of Lincoln Ave. between McClellan St. and Amity St. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
- Prohibit parking on the east side of Sunset Ave. between Elm St. and Amity St. at all times
- Prohibit parking on one side of Elm St. at all times
- Revisit the parking restrictions in the Lincoln-Sunset area 3-6 months after the new University of Massachusetts (UMass) dorms on Lincoln and Massachusetts Ave. are open. The UMass administration has indicated that once the dorms are finished, UMass will reopen Lincoln Ave. at Mass Ave. for through-traffic.
The memo summarizes the reasoning for the support.
David Sloviter said that the issues before the committee are only about safety. “The problem of weekday parking on Lincoln originates with the failure of UMass to provide reasonably priced parking for its employees. There are about 24 cars of commuters that are parked regularly on Lincoln and that won’t make a dent in UMass parking accommodations. This places an unfair burden on the neighborhood and UMass ought to be doing more to alleviate that burden.”
Ken Rosenthal said, “I have lived in Amherst on and off since 1956 so I have seen the changes that have come to the neighborhood. Sunset is a foot narrower than Lincoln and so the difficulties of sight lines and car passage are increased on Sunset. We [on Sunset] experience the same challenges as Lincoln so any changes that are adopted for Lincoln ought to be applied to Sunset as well. We know that pressure for parking where we live will only increase with the new housing development on Sunset. We’re interested in safety,not in a parking ban.
Molly Schoales identified herself as a commuter student who parks on that street. She wondered if there is a record of accidents on the street. Her experience is that traffic on the street moves quite slowly because it is relatively narrow.
Zafian responded that while she didn’t have a summary of the accident data for Lincoln at hand, her recollection is that it’s quite extensive and accidents are reported regularly. She said the data on accidents there can be compiled if needed.
Councilor Michele Miller (District 1), speaking in her personal capacity and noting that she is not a resident of the neighborhood, shared an observation from a recent trip to Montreal,where she stayed in an Airbnb in a residential neighborhood. They have what is essentially a parking permit good for a 24-hour period that sells for $6 in grocery and convenience stores. It looks like a scratch-off ticket in which you scratch off the month and day and year that you use it and hence you can purchase it in advance.
Shannon (last name not given) shared the perspective of someone who has children and lives on this street. She and her partner work at UMass and chose to live close to the university. “But,” she said, “we are concerned about the speed of cars on the street and the possibility of fatal accidents. Cars park so close to our driveway that we don’t have a clear exit and our sight lines are obscured. We have a driving learner and they have had several close calls. We have an elementary kid who finds crossing to be scary and dangerous and cars are parked so tightly that the kids often cross between them. So my concern is safety — and it’s not about sharing the neighborhood with students.”
James Barna said there are simple solutions, such as enforcing sufficient space near driveways by painting curbs yellow, to resolve the parking challenges on this street and the town just refuses to consider them. ) Also he said that students are members of this community and expressed frustration that those working on this issue have not sought input from people who park there. “We need a comprehensive solution that makes parking available to all in the community including the students who need it,” he said.
Ken Rosenthal disagreed with Barna, noting that many of the cars on Lincoln and Sunset have out-of-state plates and many others are probably not registered in Amherst and their owners do not pay excise taxes and registration fees here, which members of the community do. “But the real issue,” he stressed, “is that these streets are just too crowded and unsafe.”
Tom Bernardin observed that Rental Properties on Lincoln appear to provide off-street parking for their residents. “I would love to see folks who work at the University parking at the University and the University making that parking affordable – even free.” he said.
Councilor Pam Rooney (District 4) encouraged a comprehensive review of parking. She suggested looking at availability of land on the perimeter of town to create park-and-ride opportunities that might ameliorate the pressure near the campus.
Dorothy Pam offered a few observations:
- Superintendent of Public Works Guilford Mooring previously supported a proposal for no parking at all on Lincoln because of the volume of accidents there.
- Painting lines to demarcate no parking zones and driveway boundaries doesn’t work well because we live in New England and in winter those lines are covered with snow.
- The testimony of Shannon really resonated with her. She saw this kind of dangerous crossing between cars a lot In New York City and saw one child fatality from crossing between cars. She concluded, “We need to support Jennifer [Taub]’s) intervention to make things safer on this street.”
Ana Devlin Gauthier asked for feedback from the Amherst police (APD) and fire departments (AFD) and more data on whether they see a safety problem on this street and whether the proposed restrictions would resolve that and whether they have an alternative proposal for us to consider?
Bockelman said he would invite APD and AFD to the next meeting and that he would collect 10 years of accident records.
Steinberg shared that TSO developed a parking criteria document in 2021 over a year ago and suggested that it would be useful for TSO to take a look at the criteria that had been discussed then for reviewing parking changes. Athena O’Keefe said that she would place the document in the packet for the next meeting.
TSO will vote on the proposed parking changes at their next meeting.
TSO will meet next on October 20 at 6:30 p.m.
On the agenda:
Reviewing sewer regulations and bylaws, and new appointments
Deliberation and vote on proposed parking changes
2 thoughts on “Our Streets Are Not Safe! Residents Support New Parking Restrictions For Lincoln And Sunset Avenue”
Not a single word about using public transportation?
Nothing on biking or walking (though presumably the drivers walk to campus after they park)?
It’s hard to believe the drivers of these parked cars live in places where alternative transportation is not an option, so perhaps some other incentives — or a bit of re-education — is in order?
Upon a closer re-reading, I see Pam Rooney’s suggestion to look for “land on the perimeter of town to create park-and-ride opportunities that might ameliorate the pressure near the campus.” This was studied by the Public Transportation Committee over 20 years years ago (back when Art Swift — and later yours truly — served as it its chair).
One “finding” — perhaps the one that had driven us to do do the study — was that some neighborhoods near bus stops on existing PVTA/UMassTransit routes were becoming de facto park-and-ride facilities.
Another (disappointing) “finding” was that if someone were already commuting in a private car toward Amherst — rather than biking, bussing, carpooling, or walking — then it would be very unlikely to have them “shift modes” at a remote park-and-ride facility on their way.
Despite this, we considered park-and-ride lots in the west along University Drive, in the south near Atkins Farm, in the north at what is now The Mill District, and in the east near the old landfill (and new Dog Park); at the time, only the last of those areas also had frequent regular PVTA bus service.
In fact, when we proposed the Amity Shuttle (also once known as PVTA route B37) in the late 1990s, we had in mind that not only would that new bus service give folks without cars better access to supermarkets* near University Drive, but also the many parking lots down there could serve as park-and-ride facilities to and from Amherst Center and the UMass campus.
Thus a possible way to assess Pam’s suggestion would be to survey PVTA bus riders now to see if any of them are currently doing what we (long ago!) anticipated some might do….
*It was expected to serve 3 markets at the time the route was designed, but Victory Market — a successor to Louis Foods — at the corner of Amity and University Drive closed before the Amity Shuttle began regular service.