Improving Nantucket’s Parking


Sponsor: Nantucket Planning Office
Sponsor Liaison: Mike Burns, Peter Morrison
Student Team: Michael Calderone, Josh DePetro, Orion Strickland, Luke Ypsilantis
Abstract: Nantucket is a small island with a historic charm that attracts numerous tourists during the summer months. This influx of tourists combined with the historic, narrow, cobblestone roads and a limited parking supply leads to a multitude of parking problems. The goals of our project were to improve traffic flow in the downtown area, and to improve parking management. To achieve these goals our team had to determine the current on-street conditions, proposes solutions, evaluate new parking management systems, and then solicit feedback from various stakeholders. Some of the results of this project are a list of potential street redesigns with photoshopped concept pictures, an improved parking inventory process, and a decision matrix for evaluating parking management technology systems.



Executive Summary

Most drivers have experienced trying to find parking when the only option is on-street parking in crowded downtown areas. This experience mostly consists of driving in circles up and down the same streets trying to find that one open space or waiting for a car to leave its space. This repetitive action of circling around streets can account for roughly 30 percent of downtown traffic congestion on average across cities (Oregon Department of Tansportation, 2015).

From early June to late August increased traffic congestion is prevalent on the island of Nantucket and is stressed by the problems created from a downtown historic district that is 0.3 square miles with narrow cobblestone roads. Being a primarily seasonal location for tourists, Nantucket experiences a large population increase from about 17,200 to as many as 46,000 visitors and residents combined over the peak summer months. Since the primary way to travel to the island is by ferry, many visitors are able to bring their cars over as a means of transportation once they arrive on the island.  This sizeable influx of visitors and residents coming to the island, and inevitably bringing their cars with them, can lead to the downtown area being extremely congested.

Figure 1: Traffic Congestion on South Water St.

Although there are no delineated parking spaces on most streets, there are an estimated 1,390 on-street parking spaces in Nantucket’s downtown area. The summer season renders the on-street parking supply near downtown inadequate, as many drivers searching for an open space add to the overall traffic that exists from vehicles driving through the downtown (Edmondson, 2017).

Project Statement

The first goal of the project was to improve traffic flow in the downtown area of Nantucket. We accomplished this goal by evaluating whether prohibiting on-street parking or reconfiguring selected streets, would benefit the overall Nantucket central district parking situation and improve traffic flow. The second goal was to propose improved downtown parking management strategies by analyzing available parking management systems and assessing their applicability on island. To achieve these goals, we proposed four specific objectives:

  1.   Determine current on-street parking conditions
  2.   Propose on-street parking changes to improve traffic flow of vehicles, pedestrian access, and promote alternative modes of transportation
  3.   Evaluate new parking management systems
  4.   Analyze stakeholder opinions regarding parking management solutions

To complete these objectives, our team developed a process to document the observed parking conditions on selected streets. The data was then transferred to a GIS program and spreadsheet to display and analyze it. Our team noted the problems on the selected streets in the downtown area and then provided street reconfigurations, along with multiple parking management system solutions. We presented solutions to local stakeholders to learn their opinions and made changes to recommendations accordingly.

Results and Recommendations

The results of this project entailed a range of solutions centered around street reconfigurations, an improved manual parking inventory process, and a decision matrix. This project includes a streamlined version of a manual parking data inventory process and a decision matrix for analyzing parking management solutions. Both products were deliverables given to the town to aid anyone continuing our work. The decision matrix has a list of categories and attributes deemed critical to analyzing the feasibility of a parking management technology system on Nantucket. The improved parking inventory system focuses on using map techniques and software tools to make the process more efficient. The process involves converting data from paper maps to an ArcGIS layer, and then summarizing the data in an Excel table. With our process of data collection and input one person originally input data at a rate of 32 vehicles an hour while recording a day’s data set of about 600 inventoried vehicles. After improving the system, the process increased to a rate of 174 vehicles an hour for the team complete a day’s data set of over 2000 inventoried vehicles. The process improved by allowing multiple people to be both collecting and inputting data simultaneously. Although it is an improved process our team had limited resources and therefore made recommendations on how to improve upon the process even further. These involve using the GPS from phones to record the exact location while filling out the information need on the field through the phone.

Some of the options for reconfiguring select roads involved manipulating the sidewalks to allow an increase in driving lane space and parking area. An example of this approach is reducing the width of the sidewalk while keeping it ADA compliant. To meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act the sidewalks must be at least three feet wide. This solution involves removing a certain width of the sidewalk and rebuilding the curb at the new edge. This allows vehicles to have enough space to park on-street without ramping over the curb and damaging the sidewalk. Another solution that our team proposed is delineating parking spaces as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Comparison with Non-Delineated Spaces and Delineated Spaces

This process simply defines the space allocated for a vehicle to park with painted marks and does not alter the current road infrastructure in any major way. This solution would reduce instances of some negative driver habits such as sandwiching a car in between two vehicles so that it cannot move or parking in a way that uses two spaces instead of one. Along with these options our team recommends conducting a traffic flow study on selected streets, evaluating all the options presented in the report for reconfiguring the streets and then evaluating the impact of the chosen reconfiguration option. Then to test one of the options and see the effects of it and whether another option should be considered.

To improve the parking management on Nantucket our team recommends implementing a system of parking management technologies in the downtown region. This way parking utilization can be monitored in real time throughout the day. For a management system to be implemented, it is necessary that the current cellular network on the island be upgraded, so that these technological systems can communicate effectively in the downtown. Currently, the network connection and capabilities in downtown are not sufficient as there are reports of dropped calls and other data transfer problems during the summer season. The signal strength and connection on the island is poor overall as some homeowners must purchase their own personal microcells to guarantee a strong, reliable signal throughout the year. This will also have other positive effects, such as helping communication between first responders not get interrupted thus increasing the safety of the island. After, using the decision matrix provided, it is recommended to find the most feasible parking management technology for the town and then conduct a pilot program with it. The pilot program will tell if the technology runs the way that is desired by the town and whether to continue with that system. If the system works, the data collection for parking then will be able to be sent to the operator without any problems so that the town can have more time on managing parking rather than data collection.