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Athol parking preferences presented

  • The public was invited to view results of the Downtown Parking Study survey at an open house at the Athol Public Library Tuesday. Participants were encouraged to share ideas and comments. From left to right, Athol Public Library director Jean Shaughnessy, Erin Shaughnessy, Whitney Burdge and Amelia Casey, transportation planners from consulting firm Stantec, and Downtown Vitality Commitee member Mary Holtorf. —Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Whitney Burdge, left, of consulting firm Stantec, observes as Town Planner Eric Smith, Planning Board Chairman David Small, and Downtown Vitality Committee member Mary Holtorf discuss parking ideas during the Downtown Athol Parking Study open house at the Athol Public Library Tuesday. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/KATHY CHAISSON

Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2019 9:50:20 PM
Modified: 10/31/2019 8:26:46 AM

ATHOL – Fifty-eight percent of those who responded to the Downtown Athol Parking Study Survey would rather drive to and park at each destination instead of parking once and walking between multiple destinations. One in four people are not sure where public parking is downtown.

Transportation Planners Whitney Burdge and Amelia Casey of the consulting firm Stantec presented their findings from the survey during an open house Tuesday night at the Athol Public Library.

Despite the small turnout, the two women collected a good amount of feedback with which to develop some draft recommendations for a report that will be presented at the Downtown Vitality Committee meeting on Nov. 19. Town Planner Eric Smith said the input “definitely helps for this process.”

The public survey was made available to identify parking demand and trends in Athol, transportation modes being used, and to hear parking concerns and priorities.

The display of large posters in the Program Room provided the opportunity for participants to view the study area map and data collected of weekday parking utilization, and to jot down ideas and comments on sticky notes that they placed on specific areas of concern.

The study area map of the downtown Athol parking system encompasses the police station, library, Athol Savings Bank, Athol (Montachusett Regional Transit Authority) Station, Lord Pond Plaza and St. Francis Church.

Burdge said that the Stantec team conducted the “Weekday Parking Utilization” study in June “on a typical Thursday,” observing parking patterns four times during the day during non-traffic times. She said the period of highest utilization was between noon and 2 p.m. The study found that Main Street spaces are under capacity during peak business hours, the municipal parking lot utilization approaches functional capacity, and Lord Pond Plaza has excess capacity during peak business hours.

Some of the written feedback included better, brighter, attractive and clean access to the municipal lot for the alleys between stores, to keep the parking downtown, design guidelines for Main Street, resident parking stickers, and better signage with directions to parking areas.

The survey also revealed that 49% prefer off-street, public lot spaces, 47% prefer on-street spaces. The most frequently used locations were 49% on-street spaces on Main Street, 21% in the Town Hall/Library lot, and 14% in the municipal lot behind south side businesses.

The top five parking technology preferences, in consecutive order, were coin/card meters, sticker/permit, coin-only meters, multi-space kiosks, and a pay-by-phone app.

Sixty-three percent said on a typical day it takes less than one minute to find a parking space, and the top three influencers of parking choice were proximity, safety and security, then weather.

Stantec is working with the Town of Athol under a Massachusetts Downtown Initiative (MDI) grant funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Reach Kathy Chaisson at
978-249-3535, ext. 656.

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