Quincy, MA – Where Parking was Always Easy, Until...
In Quincy, Massachusetts, a city set just eight miles south of Downtown Boston, parking was always easy. Over 2,000 parking spots were readily accessible adjacent to Quincy Center, a business district chock full of shops, commercial offices, government offices and a budding restaurant scene.
Quincy hosts four MBTA Red Line stations, with the Quincy Center station serving as one catalyst for a renaissance of a downtown once known as “Shopperstown USA”.
Recently, after many years of planning, redevelopment of the city’s downtown has picked up in earnest. The city is the largest single landowner in the downtown area. That land, however, hosted the city’s two largest parking facilities, a more than 500-space surface lot, and an 800-space parking garage spread over more than eight acres of prime real estate.
Over less than a decade, the parking picture in Quincy Center was turned upside down. The Quincy Center MBTA parking garage was deemed structurally unsound in 2012 and was abruptly closed. This closure didn’t cause the chaos many feared because of the space available in the city’s municipal lot and garage, but that situation quickly changed too.
Over less than a decade, the parking picture in Quincy Center was turned upside down.
In 2016, the Ross Garage was razed as it too had succumbed to structural degradation, and later in 2017, the first phase began of a long-anticipated redevelopment of the Hancock surface lot and its more than 500 spaces. In the matter of a handful of years, a parking crunch was created in Quincy Center. At first, the loss of parking was manageable, as the city-owned lots had historically been underutilized. It wasn’t until 2018 that the full scale of that crunch would be realized.
By late 2017, a surface lot had been built over the rubble of the Ross Lot, giving a cushion to handle existing parking demand. By early 2018, the construction work to build new residential properties and a 700-space parking garage and civic space in the Hancock Lot began picking up, necessitating a further loss in parking capacity. By March, however, the situation had become untenable, and City officials knew that the full closure of the Hancock Lot would create more problems. The solution? An interim parking plan that considered every possible way to park Quincy Center.
Officials knew it would be impossible to accommodate existing demand in Quincy Center without first identifying additional parking capacity within walking distance of the downtown area. Enter three churches and a decade’s old Quincy social club. More than 175 spaces were identified within a mile of downtown Quincy, 120 of which would be serviced by a shuttle service running between the social club and one of the city’s largest downtown employers. The three churches in and around the downtown area were happy to work with the city to provide parking Monday through Friday, and more than three dozen existing customers were assigned to those new lots.
Even with the shifting of certain parkers to off-site lots, additional work needed to be done to make the numbers fit. Officials in the city’s Traffic, Parking, Alarm & Lighting Department suspected that they were hosting many MBTA parkers, occupying valuable space historically made available for merchants and their customers. When the interim parking plan launched, the price for daily parking was increased to discourage any available parking spaces from being occupied by all-day MBTA parkers conducting no business downtown.
As a final component of the program, the city contracted with Priority Parking, a company with years of handling complex parking operations in the Boston area, to run a valet program for transient hourly parkers. Valets manage the hourly lot, and thus far no one looking for parking in Quincy Center has been turned away at any of the lots.
With a plan in place for daytime parking, the city’s attention switched to nighttime operations. A demand for night and weekend parking close to Quincy Center restaurants prompted the city to forge relationships with partners who owned lots in the downtown yet remained empty after normal business hours. Enter the Quincy District Courthouse, who agreed to allow free parking in their lot after 5 P.M. weekdays and all day on weekends. The city also partnered with a century-old local insurance company headquartered in Quincy which willingly agreed to provide free parking to restaurant goers after normal work hours Thursday through Saturday.
Wayfinding signs were installed in conspicuous locations surrounding the lots directing visitors to both free parking and dining locations. Additionally, a dimly lit, often avoided alleyway connecting the Ross Lot to the core of Quincy Center was redesigned with new lights and signage, assuring that visitors feel safe traveling to and from their vehicles at night.
Devising a plan to tackle the parking shortage in Quincy Center was challenging, but city officials are confident their goal to maintain or exceed the level service from before the parking crunch will continue to be met. While at times chaotic, the process created an opportunity for city officials to work more closely with its downtown merchant community. Through countless hours of planning and implementation, the city strengthened its ties to its residents and a thriving business community.
Chris Cassani is director of Traffic and Parking for the City of Quincy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org