Consultant set to tackle $75,000 downtown parking study for Pittsfield


PITTSFIELD -- Participants in a major study of downtown parking issues hope it leads to a more efficient system with more spaces in consumer-friendly locations.

"From what I've heard, I think it's a great idea," said Pamela Tobin, executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., who is on the committee. "This will look at parking in a comprehensive way and it is well past due."

The 18-member Downtown Parking Management Committee will meet for the first time Monday at City Hall with consultants undertaking the $75,000 study on behalf of the city. The ad hoc group is composed of city officials and representatives from downtown businesses and organizations.

The group will supply comments, information and feedback to Nelson\Nygaard, transportation planners who are based in San Francisco with offices in several other cities and considered a leader in the field, said Pittsfield Community Development Director Douglas Clark.

The firm has undertaken studies in Boston, Springfield, Northampton, Nantucket and several other locations in Massachusetts.

The study will explore all aspects of parking downtown, Clark said, including surface and parking deck space, signage, parking revenue and management plans for maintaining facilities, and parking policies and ticket enforcement procedures.

With the help of committee members and others, Nelson\Nygaard will try to determine "what we need in terms of surface parking spaces and parking in structures," Clark said.

Stakeholders, such as business owners and representatives from arts organizations, as well as city planning, maintenance, public works, police and other officials who deal with parking issues, will be consulted. Clark said the group will meet again at several junctures during the process and will receive the consultant's final report with recommendations.

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Tobin said downtown merchants have sought a study for a number of years, and their principal issues have been a shortage of parking space and too few customer parking spaces close to businesses.

She said the committee "has a good mix of shareholders and is a pretty well-rounded group. It will give some excellent feedback to the consultants."

Longtime North Street merchant, Steven Valenti of Steven Valenti Clothing, said he hopes to give suggestions for expanding street parking and making that a process involving continual review by the city.

"In my opinion, the city could increase some parking in some areas," such as by instituting angle parking in some street sections, with only minor changes required, Valenti said. By continuing to look at and attempting new approaches each summer, he said, the city might "find maybe another 100 spaces" over time in the downtown.

"I hope this is one aspect of the study," he said. "I'm excited to be on this committee."

Valenti added that he hopes improvements suggested by the study will be implemented as well, saying he has been in the downtown for 40 years and has seen other studies that did not result in significant change.

Another member of the group, Ward 2 City Councilor Kevin Morandi, said, "I think a lot of good ideas will come from it. I want to see ways that it could be done better, and I certainly want to be part of the conversation. These consultants are highly regarded."

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