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Union Square Back-In Parking is Working, Says City

It's slowed driving speeds, made life better for bikers and pedestrians, and could lead to more business in the square, the city argues. Others have disagreed.

, called back-in angled parking, is working, according to an announcement from the city sent Wednesday.

With normal angled parking, drivers pull forward into diagonally situated parking spaces. With back-in angled parking, drivers reverse into the spots. It requires them to pull in front of the spot, stop, then back in—similar to parallel parking, but not as complicated to finish the job.

This new method, which accompanied a new single-lane traffic configuration on Bow Street, debuted in Union Square at the end of May, and almost immediately there was a mixed reaction.

A Boston Herald article panned the initiative. And on Somerville Patch, .

"The worst," one person commented.

"This has got to be the most idiotic thing Somerville has ever done!" said another.

Perhaps more people came to the new street configuration's defense, including Charlie Denison, .

Now, about a month after the new parking procedure began, the city has announcemed "initial data suggests that the pilot program to calm traffic, promote pedestrian and bicycle safety, and increase the parking supply in Union Square is working as intended."

"We were fairly confident that, once people got used to the idea, it would make Bow Street safer, more walkable and more bike-able," said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone in a statement. "But I am particularly pleased by the increase in parking supply, as it allows for additional customers throughout the day, which can result in additional revenues for our local customers."

The new parking configuration added about 10 new spots to Union Square.

The city's announcement, which you can read here, says the new configuration has led to a "modest" drop in driving speeds and a better experience for pedestrians and bikers.

Perhaps most interesting, the announcement engages in some arithmetic, based on hypothetical outcomes, to measure the "potential" economic impact to the square.

Acting Director of Traffic and Parking Matthew Dias, "citing a survey that shows the average Union Square customer depends about $50 per vista," according to the announcement, made the following statement:

"The new spaces create the ability to accommodate about 100 additional business trips per day—and we know the spaces are getting used. That could mean, for example, an extra $5,000 per day in added business opportunities, or over $100,000 per month from drivers alone. We don't yet know the extent to which the added bicycle and foot traffic is also helping local businesses."

If you're a Union Square business owner who's seen an increase in business, and you think the new parking configuration might have something to do with it, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. If you're a customer who shops in Union Square more because it's easier to find parking, do the same.

Conversely, if you've seen a drop in business, or if you now avoid Union Square because it's a bigger traffic headache, let us know.

Donal Waide June 28, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I watched someone on Main St in Medford (near Harvard AVe) yesterday trying to back into traffic from "regular parking" and it was a nightmare. People can't see and no one was obliging. In Union Square as a result of the slower traffic on Bow, you now see traffic backing up on the left side of Somerville Ave, sometimes as far back as Sally's. It was inevitable as Bow went from two to one lanes and traffic circling Union slowed overall.
mark June 28, 2012 at 04:59 PM
I love it! I like that traffic is slow. I find the street easier to cross as a pedestrian and biking is pretty simple too. I've yet to rent a zipcar to try parking-- but it seems like people are getting used to it.
Jim McGinnis June 28, 2012 at 05:34 PM
The traffic is definitely slower now, but the most surprising thing to me is that drivers seem much more likely to stop to allow you to cross the street. When there were two lanes, this rarely happened and when it did, you had to be extra cautious to make sure that another vehicle wasn't coming in the other lane. I agree with Donal that the cars waiting to turn from Somerville Ave onto Bow is often a few cars longer than it was in the past, but haven't seen it personally extend as far back as Sally O'Briens. Overall Bow feels a lot safer to me and people are a little more courteous, too.
Ellen Bowman Kokinda June 28, 2012 at 06:01 PM
People are adjusting to the change, which no longer allows motorists to go through the square at unsafe speeds. The reduction in motorist speed through Union Square is considerable making it much safer to cross the street as a pedestrian, and navigate as a bicyclist. I'm really thankful for the changes that have been made.
Julia Prange Wallerce June 28, 2012 at 09:47 PM
The timing of this project could not have been more perfect as it took place just 2 weeks after we bought our first house right on Bow Street- it was just long enough to experience the dangers of crossing the street where Summer St curves around to Bow and cars would whip around it as if no one might be on the other side- it was also long enough to notice a significant drop if traffic noise because the cars are simply moving more slowly, as they SHOULD be in the middle of a neighborhood and major commercial area. It's not just people who are safer with the Bow St changes, it's also dogs! (massive dog traffic heading to Nunziato Dog Park)

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