Last week, I introduced a policy order that would begin a pilot program to allow small businesses in Inman Square, the only Square not served by a major MBTA subway line, to issue temporary passes to a small number of employees. This is an especially pressing issue since the Inman Square Redesign construction project will result in an even greater loss of parking spots for both employees and patrons of businesses. I have supported these kinds of temporary parking programs in the past, such as when Councillors Kelley, Devereux, and Zondervan introduced their order to allow day parking for teachers at schools without parking lots.
We all agree on promoting more sustainable forms of transit that are not single trips in cars, but we need to be equitable in our transit policy, and recognize that a one size fits all approach does not work in a diverse City. Many employees of small businesses or teachers cannot afford to live in Cambridge due to the high cost of living, and though our City itself is transit rich, we need to be asking ourselves “from where are people coming?” Not everyone who works in our City lives in an area that is accessible by the MBTA or another mode of public transit.
The reality is that Inman Square lacks the kind of transit infrastructure needed for businesses to thrive, which is why the 2016 Retail Strategy report emphasized that parking in retail districts like this was “crucial to business success.” Employees are using the very parking that customers are supposed to use to patronize the stores – the meters out front, and employees are having to move their cars every two hours, wasting valuable time on the clock, and increasing the number of car trips made in the City each day. All of this negatively impacts the already fragile retail business economy. We can’t control the high cost of rent, we can’t control the fact that people are increasing using Amazon and other online venues to shop, but we can make the cost of doing business with the City of Cambridge a little less onerous, which goes a long way with our small businesses.
Unfortunately my order was charter written last week, which means it did not come before the Council for a vote, and will appear on the agenda again this coming week. The Cambridge Day has coverage of the discussion that we had between the Council, Mayor, City Manager, and Director of Traffic and Parking regarding the proposal and how to best move forward. Transit inequity is a persistent problem in Cambridge, both for residents and non-resident employees alike, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council and City Departments to find the best solution.