One-way traffic and angled spaces could create more parking on Main Street. That was an option the Falmouth Transportation Management Committee discussed at its meeting on September 10.
“Typically, in terms of parking lot design, angled parking isn’t much of a benefit, but in this case it may be worthwhile, especially if you’re looking at removing one direction of traffic and having one-way traffic,” Town Engineer James E. McLoughlin told the committee.
The committee is considering options to increase parking in the center of town. Committee members asked how many parking spaces could be gained. Mr. McLoughlin said the numbers typically work out to 2.5 angled parking spaces for every parallel parking spot, adding he would get the committee a figure for its next meeting.
“That would be a fairly significant change, if we were to eliminate a traffic direction,” he said. “It is not impossible. I don’t know if anyone has been to Hyannis lately, but they certainly have a dramatically different-looking Main Street with what is going on with COVID-19 and how they’ve approached it. They had one-way traffic, but they had two lanes, and now they’ve gone down to just one. It is a fairly dramatic change to the landscape there.”
There are matters to consider beyond the number of spaces gained, including the issue of accessibility.
“I’ve never seen angled accessible spaces,” committee member Jane F. Perry said. “Is that something that can be done?”
Committee chairman Edward J. DeWitt said disabled angled parking spaces exist and are wider to accommodate wheelchair access.
“I think if it is doable, it would be great, but please don’t forget about disabled people,” Ms. Perry said.
Mr. DeWitt said “there is a sense we may need more handicap spaces.”
After the meeting, he said he counted four disabled parking spaces on Main Street between Shore Street and Post Office Road.
The committee also discussed the matter of emergency access. Regardless of what the committee recommends for Main Street, Mr. DeWitt said, the road needs to accommodate the larger vehicles used by the Falmouth Fire Rescue Department.
“That is one of the most important things, being able to get emergency vehicles down Main Street,” he said.
The committee also talked enforcement. Currently, on-street parking on Main Street is limited to three hours. At a prior meeting the committee discussed metering Main Street, an idea supported by Andrew Reed, whose comments were read into the record by Mr. DeWitt.
“I wholly support the idea of metering all downtown parking, rather than just limiting it to Main Street, although I do support metering Main Street,” Mr. Reed wrote. “Metering can be an effective, efficient way to increase parking spot turnover, increase foot traffic to stores and restaurants, and to help raise revenue for a publicly owned asset.”
The committee also received a comment from Registrar of Voters Suzanne M. Gonsalves regarding Falmouth Town Hall employee parking.
“It is a nightmare here from mid-April through after Columbus Day,” Ms. Gonsalves wrote. “Yes, it is true, people are afraid to leave on their lunch breaks, as when we get back, we can’t find a parking spot, which makes us late coming back half the time. It really is terrible, and of course, even with the signs we have up in front of town hall, business parking people don’t adhere to that because it is not enforced.”
Police Chief Edward A. Dunne pointed out that Main Street used to be metered.
“When there was a renovation project, the meters were taken out and never put back,” Chief Dunne said, noting the three-hour parking restriction was put in place after the removal of the parking meters.
“We have one parking enforcement person, and he is basically in Woods Hole because that is where we have meters, but he will come up to Main Street from time to time,” he said.
Main Street parking is also enforced during the summer by seasonal officers. Chief Dunne said he did not have anyone on Main Street for most of this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Just this week we had officers on Main Street enforcing the parking regulations there,” he said.
Earlier this summer, the Falmouth Select Board discussed making Main Street a one-way street as one option to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This idea, along with the idea of closing a portion of Main Street, was not supported by the business community. If the committee wishes to pursue this option, Chief Dunne said, it should be discussed with those business owners.
Chief Dunne also noted that overnight parking is not allowed in the town hall lot. However, overnight parking is allowed in the municipal lot on Library Lane.
“A lot of people do park in that and then walk to the Steamship Authority, and leave their car there for two to three days or a week,” he said. “That takes up a lot of parking spots. One of the thought processes on that municipal lot was to maybe come up with a sticker program, as there are residents on Main Street who have apartments above those stores who need a place to park.”
Mr. DeWitt said a sticker program should also be considered for restaurants, as some patrons might have had too much alcohol to drive home safely. They should not be penalized for leaving their car in a municipal lot overnight, Mr. DeWitt said.
Chief Dunne said the town has a placard program already. Restaurant employees can place a placard in a customer’s car, letting police know the person took a cab home.
“That car won’t be towed. We don’t want people driving if they are intoxicated,” he said.
Town Planner Thomas Bott said there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to parking. Because of this, the town can look at other communities, identify best practices and determine if those practices can be implemented in Falmouth.
“The low-cost options are optimizing parking,” Mr. Bott said. “As my friend, the town planner in Plymouth, says, having a parking problem downtown is not a problem. Having way too many parking spaces downtown is a problem. It is about maximizing those spaces and allowing folks to get to places.”
While offsite parking is a possibility, he said, people need to know about it and be encouraged to use it.
“You have to have breadcrumbs; you have to have something to entice people to park offsite,” Mr. Bott said.
Chief Dunne said one offsite lot that should be considered is the parking lot on Depot Avenue near the Shining Sea Bikeway.
“I don’t know how much advertising is done for the Depot Avenue lot. That is a large parking lot, and it is really underutilized. I don’t think enough people know it is there,” he said.