Novel Approaches to Parking Management on Nantucket

Sponsor: Nantucket Planning Office groupphotonpo
Sponsor Liaisons: Mike Burns, Peter Morrison
Student Team: Shannon Alvarez, Richard Hosea, Nicholas Lanotte, Angela MacLeod
Abstract: Nantucket residents and visitors struggle with parking during the summer tourist season. Our goal was to propose improvements to parking management in the historic downtown in collaboration with the Nantucket Planning Office and the Civic League. We interviewed stakeholders and surveyed homeowners to understand the preferences and concerns of residents. We found that lack of turnover, along with employee parking, are the primary causes of parking difficulties and, contrary to expectations, a majority of respondents favored paid parking as part of the solution. Finally, we propose short, medium, and long-term recommendations, such as the implementation of new technology and the improvement of alternative transportation, to improve the parking management.

NPO Final Report

NPO Final Island Presentation

Executive Summary

The notorious difficulty of searching for available parking is exceptionally difficult on Nantucket as the summer season attracts many tourists onto the island, nearly quadrupling the population during that three-month period. Despite efforts to provide sufficient parking downtown, the demand far exceeds what the town can provide. Drivers that cannot find a parking space circle the area, creating increased congestion and CO2 emissions. Implementation of an effective parking management system on Nantucket, however, is limited by regulations designed to preserve the historic character of the downtown area. These regulations have prevented the integration of traditional options such as parking meters and kiosks in the past. Additionally, the town lacks off-street parking options in the downtown area and has limited space to build supplementary parking structures. The implementation of an effective paid parking system is also limited by the reluctance of some Nantucket residents, who are used to the current free time-limited parking system.
The goal of this project is to propose updated approaches to improve the management of parking in the Town of Nantucket. To reach our goals, the objectives for our project are:

  • Objective 1: Identify stakeholder perspectives on parking issues and current and previous parking management approaches.
  • Objective 2: Solicit public and other stakeholder perspectives on selected parking management approaches.
  • Objective 3: Evaluate stakeholder and public feedback to identify the most significant factors that contribute to the parking situation to focus compatible management options.
  • Objective 4: Propose short, medium, and long-term management options that comprise a comprehensive parking management system.

Public Attitudes and Opinions
We conducted a survey of homeowners through the Civic League to gauge interest in parking management options and parking usage, willingness to purchase an annual sticker or pay by hour for parking, and use of a satellite lot. The survey results indicate that:

  • Seasonal residents favor directing paid parking revenues to be allocated to the following (in descending order of priority): increasing shuttle bus services, developing satellite parking lots, and expanding bike routes.
  • Year-round residents favor directing paid parking revenues to be allocated to the following (in descending order of priority): increasing shuttle bus services, increasing enforcement, and adding more bike paths.
  • Although both types of residents prioritized increasing shuttle bus services, only 25% of the residents expressed personal willingness to patronize a shuttle bus.
  • Voting taxpayer residents are equally divided in their preference for a one-time parking permit or for paying for parking by the hour.

Our interviews with major stakeholders of downtown revealed their perspectives on the causes of the parking problem, public attitudes and behavior, employee parking, and enforcement. The interviews highlight the following points:

  • Employees occupy numerous parking spaces during business hours, which reduces the amount available to patrons of local businesses.
  • Parking difficulties are exacerbated by traffic congestion downtown that results from the narrow streets and large volume of unmanaged pedestrians during the peak season.
  • Residents’ and visitors’ attachment to their cars limits the usage of alternative forms of transportation.
  • Mixing different time-limited zones leads to inconsistent enforcement because officers may not be able regulate some zones fast enough.
  • The Stop & Shop parking lot downtown is heavily used but turnover is low because parking limits are not rigorously enforced in this private lot.

Our recommendations result from our interviews and surveys, which document the variety of factors that exacerbate downtown parking problems: pedestrian and vehicular traffic congestion, employee parking, and slow parking space turnover, as well as from our background research.

We recommend instituting a parking sticker system (similar to the existing beach sticker system) within the next year, once the Town has established a parking benefit district. A one-time parking sticker fee is easy to implement and would generate a source of revenue to fund increased shuttle bus services, expanded satellite lots, and increased capacity of current valet services.

In 2-5 years, we recommend that the town transition from a basic parking sticker to an RFID transponder, similar to a device like EZ Pass, to facilitate automatic collection of an hourly rate for parking, with charges scaled to manage parking demand and behavior. We also recommend that the town reevaluate parking technologies. These technologies are advancing rapidly, and it will be important to avoid implementing an obsolete technology.

Within the next 10 years, we recommend that the town move forward with the redevelopment of a section of waterfront property downtown as an intermodal transportation center, which would include a parking garage, bus stops and taxi access. The town can also improve upon medium-term solutions by implementing higher technologies that provide more real-time data on parking.