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Thayer Street congestion fix awaits new parking boss

Last spring, a task force released recommendations to reduce parking problems and congestion on College Hill. A year later, implementation of those recommendations is on hold while the city waits for a new parking administrator to take control.

Among the College Hill Parking Task Force's recommendations were more short-term parking for Thayer Street, more long-term parking for the area's students and employees, increased parking enforcement and better signage and street markings.

John Nickelson, the director of the city's Department of Public Works, said the city was interviewing potential parking administrators and expected to make a decision soon.

"I actually suggested that we hold off on the implementation until we have someone who can actually see this problem through," Nickelson said.

Brendan McNally, director of the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who chaired the task force, said the next step was for the city to hold a public meeting to discuss the proposals. A lower age for Zipcar rentals and free use of RIPTA buses by students have already reduced demand for parking on the Hill, he said.

McNally said he was hopeful that a meeting to discuss the task force's proposals would be scheduled in the next couple of months. The task force was a "good process" which resulted in valuable recommendations, he said. "We're hopeful that they'll still be good ideas to think about and implement," he said.

However, not everyone agrees with the recommendations made by the task force. William Touret, the president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, said some of the initiatives would actually increase the number of vehicles on College Hill.

In a July letter to the City Plan Commission, Touret wrote the "primary cause of the worsening parking and traffic congestion on College Hill is the continued facility expansion and intensification on College Hill, primarily by Brown University." The task force proposal does not address Brown's expansion, which he believes is the underlying cause of the parking problem, he wrote in the letter.

Brown participated in the task force's review as part of the process of writing its institutional master plan, which the University must submit to the city every 10 years.

Meanwhile, drivers on Thayer Street and College Hill still face a shortage of parking spaces. 

"If you live in College Hill, the traffic congestion and parking congestion is very serious, and it's not getting any better," Touret said.  "I don't think anybody — the city, Brown, the residents or visitors — would disagree with that." 

Christina Taylor, who works at Salon Kroma, said customers often call and say they are going to be late because they can't find anywhere to park.

"A neighborhood parking lot, or even a parking garage, would be great," she said.

Grant Dulgarian, a Thayer street businessman, said parking is still an issue, and expressed dismay at new restaurants opening on Thayer Street, noting that they will increase the need for parking.

"It's a difficult situation now," he said. "At the very least we ought not to exacerbate the situation by adding any new demand for on-street parking."

Students with cars on campus feel the parking crunch along with local business owners.
Scott Middleton '10 said finding day parking around campus is  "usually pretty difficult."

But, he said, "I'm also glad there's not parking lots everywhere because that wouldn't be too attractive."

"It's a big hassle because there's a blackout period during the morning where you can't park for free," said Christi Zaleski '11.

Nickelson said he is optimistic that the parking situation on Thayer and College Hill can be improved. "If not, we've done a lot of work for nothing," he joked.


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