MMA Innovation Award winner, From The Beacon, February 2020

Beverly was recognized for its downtown parking system updates and website.

As downtown Beverly has become even more of a draw in recent years, the city needed a modernized, user-friendly parking system to accommodate the increasing number of cars from residents, workers, MBTA commuters and customers.

Without adding spots, the city increased parking capacity by making better use of the spaces it did have. It raised parking rates for main streets, issued parking permits to downtown residents and workers, installed 95 payment kiosks downtown, launched a phone app for parking payments, implemented new license-plate recognition and scanner technology, and relied on updated permitting software.

“It was an incredibly interesting and challenging project, to take a downtown and change something that had been in place for decades, by leveraging modern technology to respond to the specific needs of the community,” said Kevin Harutunian, former chief of staff to Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill and now the Topsfield town administrator.

Often, the downtown had spaces available, but not in the right places. Commuter Rail users parked for free on residential streets instead of paying for spots at the MBTA station. That forced residents and downtown workers onto the main streets, preventing customers from parking near shops and restaurants. Meanwhile, nearby municipal lots and the MBTA garage were underused.

To change this, the city limited downtown residential streets to permit parking, giving residents free permits and downtown workers $25 monthly permits to park there and in the municipal lots. It increased main street parking rates from 25 to 75 cents an hour, making the first 20 minutes free to accommodate people running quick errands. The changes sent more commuters back to MBTA parking and freed up more street spots for customers.

“There’s a strategy behind the parking system and the tiered structure,” said Stephanie Bilotti, Mayor Cahill’s chief of staff. “There are definitely a lot more available spaces, and a lot more turnover, too.”

By automating the parking permit system, the city sped up the residency verification process. License plates serve as the permits, which parking enforcement vehicles scan while checking for permit and nonpayment violations.

To educate the public, the city established a website, www.parkbeverly.com, set up a phone hotline for questions, and sent employees onto the streets to serve as “parking ambassadors” to help people figure out the parking kiosks and the four parking zones.

The project cost Beverly $1.3 million to implement. The city expects to make a profit of $75,000 annually for the first five years, while it makes the bond payments for the project. After that, it expects to net $275,000 a year. In comparison, the city made about $40,000 annually in previous years.

For more information, contact Chief of Staff Stephanie Bilotti at sbilotti@beverlyma.gov.

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