Study Update: Existing Conditions and Curb Profile

The Citywide Parking and Curb-Use study continues. Over the winter, our project team continued to collect existing conditions data, including curbside regulation information for every public curb in the city and occupancy data for selected streets at different times of the day in each neighborhood to inform the Curb Profile. The Curb Profile is an assessment of the characteristics of curbs and on-street parking in distinct areas of the city. The Parking Study Taskforce met twice this spring to learn about the development of the Curb Profile and provide feedback on the framework for modeling parking demand to inform study recommendations. Learn more about the updates through the summary below or dive into the data collection in the Curb Profile.

At the outset of the study, the Task Force worked with the consultant team to put together a list of goals. These goals include maximizing the effectiveness of the curb, improving pickup/drop-off safety and efficiency, improving commercial loading availability, decreasing drive alone mode share to further decarbonizations goals, expanding and improving safe walking and biking options, improving transit performance and access, advancing equity goals, and centering people in our public space These goals shaped the approach to data collection and will inform any policy recommendations.

Existing Conditions

The project team gathered information on the supply, regulation, and use of Somerville’s approximately 24,000 on-street parking spaces and curbs. Field data was collected for every curb in Somerville in order to establish a complete Curb Inventory that documents the supply of curb spaces, how they are regulated, and the presence of specific street assets such as fire hydrants, parking signs, curb cuts, and crosswalks.

Curb utilization data was collected in the field in key areas throughout the city to determine the demand for on-street parking. In order to observe peak parking conditions, utilization data was collected on early weekday mornings in residential areas when residential parking is busiest. In commercial areas, data was collected on both weekdays and weekends from 12 PM – 8 PM when these areas are busiest and when metered parking is in effect. Utilization in mixed residential and commercial areas was also collected on weekdays from 10 AM – 6 PM to determine how daytime commercial demand impacts residential parking.

Analyzing current curb use conditions in the city along with permit data, the project team found that 52% of Somerville’s curb space is dedicated to parking or loading for vehicles. Another 19% is used as driveway curb cuts totaling 71% of potential curb space being allocated solely to vehicles.

The vast majority (73%) of the 25,100 vehicle-accessible curb spaces in Somerville are primarily regulated to accommodate resident parking (Resident Permit Parking). Although only 36.7% of Somerville residents drive alone to work, 76% of households own vehicles.

Somerville’s resident-permit spaces averaged 67% utilization across the city during overnight-peak occupancy counts. However, this varies between neighborhoods and among individual blocks. During daytime periods, these spaces averaged 57% utilization, indicating that many residents do not drive their vehicles daily.

The number of registered resident permits exceeds this supply by a ratio of 2.5 permits per space. Union Square, Prospect Hill, Duck Village, and East Somerville have the highest ratios of permits to space. In contrast, Magoun Square and Winter Hill feature only 2.2 permits per space, and observed utilization demonstrates that parking is less full in these areas. Areas with higher ratios of permits to spaces were observed to be fuller (70% full in Union Square and Prospect Hill) while areas with fewer permits were less full (59% full in Winter Hill).

Specialty permit programs such as Business Permits and School Permits facilitate parking for employees traveling into the city. Time-limited parking is used to share parking resources between residents and visitors in commercial areas and is highly utilized during the day in most areas where it exists. The density of resident permits per household strongly tracks with patterns of high-density and concentrations of low-income housing. Areas like East Somerville and Duck Village, where housing is dense and incomes are low, show the highest concentration of permits.

Parking Personas

People get around in different ways and delivery services continue to grow. The project team developed a set of personas to capture how this diversity might affect responsiveness to parking and mobility policy changes among Somerville residents, employees, and visitors. These personas do not encompass all our community's identities but gives us a representation of the variety of our community members. We can then look at potential needs and behaviors of these personas and model how different actions might impact them. Learn more about the personas identified in the Curb Profile.

Public Survey Results

Following the virtual public meetings held in November, the project team released an online survey from December 2021 to February 2022. We received over 1,700 responses. The input shared in the survey along with comments from the public meeting, emailed comments, and input heard at outreach events, in addition to the findings will serve as the basis for recommendations development in the final stages of the study. Summaries of the survey responses will be presented at the next public meeting. You can also review the survey summary report.

Next Steps

The project team, in collaboration with the Task Force, will continue to put together a series of recommendations to be presented to City staff and the public. We will host another public meeting this summer to present those recommendations and gather feedback. Subscribe to email updates to receive an email notification for the next virtual public meeting in the coming weeks. Meeting information will be posted to this project website and City Calendar.

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