By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – A parking analysis of downtown Westborough showed that there is ample space that is being underutilized.
Representatives from Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission presented the results of a study that spanned nearly two years to Westborough Board of Selectmen on Feb. 9.
CMRPC Deputy Director of Transportation Sujatha Krishnan noted that the analysis was interrupted by COVID-19 but recently got back on track. She said the feeling going into the study was that there was insufficient parking which was shown not to be the case.
Robert Raymond, CMRPC transportation planner, took selectmen through a series of GIS maps and graphs, highlighting the capacity on weekdays and weekends.
He used data collected in November 2019 and November 2020 broken down by on-street, off-street, time restricted and unrestricted, marked and unmarked as well as parking lot spaces.
On-street peak times between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. had 14 to 15 percent of the supply used.
Although Town Hall and Forbes lots are efficiently used, he noted that in general, all lots were underutilized or below 80 percent occupancy all day and around 60 percent except for a few hours.
Between 80 and 90 percent utilization is considered efficient use of space, Raymond said.
He noted that there is only one marked handicapped space for on-street parking and 12 in municipal lots.
Ron Barron, principal planner, made concluding remarks, noting that there should be a balance between convenient parking versus efficient use of town real estate.
He said that the town may consider more signage to point people to available lots. Another idea is to use excess spaces for parklets, temporary outdoor seating, pop up restaurants, etc.
Selectman Syed Hashmi said that he is supportive of converting parking spots to public spaces.
“This data gives us the opportunity to be creative in how we use these spaces,” he said, “and potentially, long-term, create these into green spaces.”
Selectman Vice Chair Allen Edinberg said the excess parking spaces many not be located where people want to park, given where they are going. He believes people are unaware of some of the places they are allowed to park and thinks there are ways the town can more clearly indicate these areas.
Opportunities to widen sidewalks and support events like art festivals are other pluses, he said.
Direct Local Technical Assistance funding and Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs grants financed the study.
To see a full report click on Westborough Parking Study Update (arcgis.com).
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