In late September, the heavily traveled first block of Harvard St in Coolidge Corner underwent unexpected changes. A cab stand was moved to the next block, meters near high-traffic businesses, including Peets Coffee, Brookline Booksmith and Crossroads Trade were covered and meters in the next block were removed to accommodate the cab stand.
These changes are part of a 30-day trial program instituted by the Department of Public Works and the Brookline Police Department . No notice was provided to residents, area businesses, the Parking Committee or the Transportation Board prior to these changes. Ticketing of cars and pedestrians alike began immediately, however.
The program was based upon recommendations made by a Parking Consultant the Brookline Police Department and Department of Public Works hired. The consultant was asked to evaluate traffic flow and parking in Coolidge Corner and make recommendations to alleviate congestion.
The consultant’s recommendations included removal of meters, relocation of the cab stand, traffic light timing changes, conversion of parking areas to a passing lane and increased enforcement. Removal and/or changing the Harvard Street pedestrian crosswalk at Green Street was identified as part of the intersection problem but is not part of the trial changes. Owners of businesses directly impacted by these recommendations are concerned, as their input was neither considered nor sought for the consultant’s report. The trial implemented ALL of the recommendations at the same time. It is not clear that implementing just some of the recommendations might improve the intersection enough.
Quantification of the program’s effectiveness is proving to be equally problematic. Ticketing volume and traffic patterns captured by surveillance cameras in Coolidge Corner are the sole means of assessment. That none of the surveillance cameras are directed where parking used to be makes the accuracy this method of quantification questionable.
Further complicating the issue, loss of parking in this high-traffic area creates a significant financial loss for Brookline and places an additional burden on businesses already strained by the recession. Removal of meters represents a loss of approximately $75K in revenue to the town. In addition, property values of businesses that lost parking are reduced. Commercial properties in Brookline pay 1.75% of the assessed value on their property in real estate taxes. Lower property values translate into lost tax revenue for Brookline.
Over the past several months, residents, local government and the business community have taken proactive steps to work toward a viable solution together. Many from these groups now question whether the current program is actually creating more problems for Brookline.
The Transportation Board is scheduled to meet October 29 to discuss codifying the program. The meeting begins at 7pm at the Public Safety Building. Public comment is invited.