Mansfield, MBTA ignore parking needs of commuters outside Mansfield

This appeared as an Op-Ed piece in the Sept. 8, 2000 issues of the Mansfield News and Norton Mirror newspapers. Click here to return to Glenn's list of published articles.

Mansfield, MBTA ignore parking needs of commuters outside Mansfield
by Glenn Gutmacher

Norton and Foxboro residents are getting screwed in Mansfield's and the MBTA's plans--or should I say, non-plans--to address the commuter rail station situation.

In a move in early August, the town installed 2-hour maximum parking signs on all streets between a 5- and 10-minute walk from the station, adding to signs existing for years that block commuter parking on all the streets under a five-minute walk.

In a Mansfield News article two weeks ago, the Town Manager, John D'Agostino, was quoted as saying that the plans to expand the commuter rail station next year (see for details) will not increase the number of parking spaces, yet he admitted that the area population needing to use the station will continue increasing rapidly.

Does Mansfield realize that ALL paid parking lot spaces are full BEFORE 7am daily? Unfortunately, most commuters can't get to the station before 7am: As one of many commuting parents with small children who need to be helped to get ready for daycare/school, I can't leave that early, not to mention the numerous others whose workplaces don't open before 8am, so there's no point in them catching such early trains, among other reasons.

So what's next? Installing more 2-hour parking signs all the way to the Norton and Foxboro town borders? God forbid you don't walk well, or it's inclement weather, etc., it's becoming quite a hike to get to the station!

So let's get serious. What "solutions" has Mansfield proposed?

  1. They told police to hold off on enforcing ticketing on the newly-added 2-hour streets, but that's only because residents on those streets were upset that the new parking signs meant they couldn't park in front of their own homes or invite guests over who have cars. And the non-ticketing policy will only last until Mansfield can create a town windshield sticker system or some similar program that allows Mansfield residents to safely park there.

  2. The recently-added Mansfield Connection GATRA shuttle buses are nice, dropping off and picking up Mansfield residents door-to-door for just $2 a day. However, if you're one of the many non-Mansfield commuters displaced by the town's (in)actions, that isn't worth diddly.

  3. The town authorized a private parking lot that will be going in near the station, but it already has more people on its waiting list than it has spaces for. (Another private lot located near there four years ago was always filled, but the town said it was "unauthorized" and shut it down.)

Town Manager John D'Agostino's remarks and the town's policies to date amount to preserving the status quo: If he knows the commuter population is growing, why is he approving a commuter rail station project that doesn't include more parking or otherwise accommodate its users? The station may reside in Mansfield, but that doesn't mean the obligation ends with Mansfield residents.

Instead, how about trying some of these ideas?

  1. Since GATRA now transports Mansfield residents door-to-door so inexpensively, why doesn't the town just free up all the Mansfield resident-only parking spaces in the town-run paid lots near the station to EVERYBODY?

  2. The Mansfield News article revealed that the 2-hour, anti-commuter parking signs were installed in large part at the urging of Mansfield's downtown business association. Yet aren't these the same businesses who benefit from the commuter population? Cafe Arpeggio has a prominent sign in its window about the commuter discount special, as one example. Well, what would they think if those same commuters decided to boycott their businesses until they changed their anti-commuter stance?

Your neighbors are getting angry, Mansfield; it's time you and the MBTA worked with Norton and Foxboro to take meaningful action.

Glenn Gutmacher is a Norton resident.

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