Mattapan civic broaches parking, meters on the Avenue at its 2nd planning parley

A delivery truck and double-parked vehicles are common sights in the commercial areas of Blue Hill Avenue such as here at the Sun Pizza and Market location by Harvard Street. (Seth Daniel photo)

The Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council (GMNC) hosted its second block-by-block neighborhood planning session for Blue Hill Avenue on Mon., Sept. 12, with the controversial related topics of parking and parking meters rising to the top of the discussion.

The meetings are meant to engage the community in the Blue Hill Avenue Action Plan process with the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), using local vendors like Allentza Michel’s Powerful Pathways company and Consult Le La ‘s Shavel’le Olivier and Chavella Lee-Pacheco, to facilitate the discussions. The latest session followed a meeting last spring that looked block-by-block at Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan Square to Morton Street. This month’s effort focused on Blue Hill Avenue from Morton Street to Grove Hall in four groups.

Most of them came to the conclusion that parking is used very differently in different areas. The group looking at the area from Morton to Harvard Street pointed out that some places are more residential, and parking is used mostly overnight by residents – such as near Harambee Park. But in more commercial areas like around the B-3 Police station, the parking tends to occur during the day and many times leads to double parking.

That difference was also cited by the group examining the area from Harvard Street to American Legion Highway, an area is both highly commercial and residential. Double and triple parking situations commonly unfold by the Sun Pizza and Market location near the busy Harvard Street intersection. A similar situation exists where double parking is common for those visiting the businesses and health center near the Columbia Road intersection.

Those different uses of parking, especially in commercial areas, had some thinking about options. “I’d like to bring up the idea of maybe using parking meters in this area,” said Mattapan’s Chad Fletcher. Others chimed in, saying the double-parking situations up and down Blue Hill Avenue are particularly perilous for pedestrians crossing the streets and for bicyclists.

Some, like state Rep. Russell Holmes, quickly disagreed with Fletcher’s viewpoint.

“I’m an absolute ‘no’ on meters,” he said. “It’s a neighborhood where the businesses are already struggling. I want to try some other things to try to move the cars first. I get a lot of pushback for towing on street cleaning days. I’m not there yet on parking meters being the next step…I think the next-level step is a dedicated bus lane and see where that goes. We’re not downtown Boston.”

GMNC President Fatima Ali Salaam said the standard for comparison is Dorchester Avenue, which doesn’t have meters. She said she doesn’t think meters are the answer for Blue Hill Avenue, either. She would like to see better parking enforcement from Transit Police and Boston Police along the Avenue.

BTD officials told the Reporter that they aren’t opposed to parking meters, but it would be a decision led by the community and businesses. They added that the overall project will include evaluating parking usage, its need and availability along all sections of the corridor.

Other discussions around parking created more questions than answers. One of the things each group wanted to know was the total of parking assets along Blue Hill Avenue – including public and private parking lots.

In the group looking at overnight residential parking around Harambee Park, it was noted that the Sportsman’s Tennis and Education Center (STEC) has a large parking lot right off Blue Hill Avenue that isn’t used overnight and is a valuable resource that could be shared in off-hours. With respect to that conversation, many said that a full parking audit would better inform the discussion.

BTD said it is exploring the possibility of doing such a study along the Avenue.

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