I stopped to eat in Harvard Square today on the way to my parents’ from the Boston airport. Modern thinking on street design has made its impact on the Square. Bike lanes have erupted all over the place since 2000, and the small Palmer Street alley, which runs between the Harvard Coop’s two buildings, has become a pedestrian-friendly, woonerf-like “shared space” where pedestrians mix with occasional traffic and loading trucks. Here’s the old alley, and this is what it looks like today.
Not all is rosy for Harvard Square; sadly, the iconic Out of Town News is closing, a harbinger of imminent social collapse.
However, municipal parking is still too cheap. As Greater Greater Mom and I were driving into the Square for lunch, we tried to find parking at the municipal parking lot by the Harvard Square Hotel (price: $2 per hour). Unfortunately, it was full, and private garages charge closer to $20 for two hours. She recommended that if we couldn’t find parking, we just ditch the Square and drive on home to eat. She didn’t want to drive around for a long time looking for a space.
Fortunately, we found a curbside space (price: $1 per hour), but Cambridge is missing a big opportunity. Greater Greater Mom decided she’d have been willing to pay $4 per hour to be assured of a space to park. Cambridge could be making more money, and drawing in customers who don’t want a big hassle to find parking, by charging that much for these municipal spaces. Instad, Cambridge is underpricing their public parking and curbside spaces, missing out on revenue and scaring away potential customers who’ll dine elsewhere.