Tonight the Newton Traffic Committee held a meeting to present and receive public comments on the proposed parking plan for the Newton North High School construction. Basically, for the next three years there are about 400 parking spots that won't exist in the NNHS lot and they need to find places in the neighborhood for the displaced teachers (and some students) to park during the day.
The plan is basically quite reasonable. They decided that 2000 feet was a reasonable maximum to expect people to walk, and drew a circle of that radius centered on the existing building. They found about 200 spaces on or next to city land (such as streets that abut the NNHS site and the Austin St. commuter lot, which is only 55% utilized on a typical weekday.) They eliminated streets within that 2000' circle that would pose difficulties (too narrow, too windy, already bear heavy through traffic), and on the remaining streets they are allocating one out of every three spots on one side of the street. Each permit will be good for one specific spot, e.g. "123 Lowell Ave."
Most of the streets within this radius already have parking restrictions because of the school. (E.g., 1 hour parking or resident permit parking only during school hours.) The special permits would exempt the parker from the existing limits.
In theory, someone could find a spot which is not currently restricted and park there if it's closer than their permitted spot. If this becomes a problem, the city can add additional restrictions; although that's normally a process with some duration (first it has to be docketed with the traffic committee, then if they approve it it goes before the whole Board of Aldermen, and only then can it become an ordinance) the police do have the ability to promulgate parking restrictions "when necessary for public safety" and they would be prepared to do so in this sort of circumstance.
A lot of people raised specific questions, identifying blind intersections or hills where there is already a dangerous situation. The traffic committee took lots of notes and assured us that when they actually choose which spots to designate for permits they will take our input into consideration.
I do believe that there will be a lot of cheating, and even with lots of enforcement it will be a problem. And I'm very concerned that Mill St. (on which I live, and which is exempted from the permits, and which already has a problem with speeders and reckless drivers, and which is going to be surrounded by permit parkers) will develop an even greater problem with heavy traffic and unsafe drivers. I had been hoping that we'd get some attention to the traffic calming needs -- not only of Mill St., but of the entire community -- as part of this, but that's clearly not going to happen.
But I don't really see how they could do any better. Especially since I asked afterwards and their implementation budget is zero. The city is spending upwards of $150M on the construction, and has literally told the traffic committee to find money in their existing budget to print the permit stickers and post the new signage.