Robert Greeney: It’s time for Amherst to create ‘pedestrian spaces’

Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To the editor:

A recent public forum on parking in Amherst elicited a variety of opinions and comments. I would like to offer two items for consideration in our planning for future parking options for Amherst, parking sprawl and pedestrian spaces.

In Amherst the term sprawl is often used and widely considered undesirable. I have never heard the term used for parking.

I offer the term pedestrian space as the town center equivalent to open space. Open space means the absence of homes and buildings. Pedestrian space means the absence of cars and trucks. It is worth pondering that we tenaciously preserve open space and yet rarely if ever create vehicle-free zones. Where in Amherst center can you sit or walk and not see parked and moving vehicles?

So often I hear statements that imply, if we have more parking our town center will become more vibrant. I disagree. I am not against parking or a parking garage, but I am in favor of vehicle-free pedestrian spaces. In fact, this makes me in favor of a parking garage. I suggest we cluster parking. Eliminate the four parking spaces here and the eight spaces there and use those areas of meager parking to create pleasant pockets for people to congregate, eat, drink, talk and socialize.

The obvious prime location for a large space of this nature is the current Boltwood parking area. I challenge planning and design professionals to creatively and economically transform the Boltwood parking area into Boltwood Pedestrian Park. It can be an attraction that will become the pride of Amherst, and serve well those of us that live and work here and the numerous visitors from nearby and far away places.

Even if you cannot embrace this rather bold suggestion, consider the positive influence of one small step at a time beginning to create people-friendly, vehicle-free nooks and crannies throughout the downtown area. As we move forward in developing our town center and planning for future parking, keep in sharp focus the need to reverse the current parking sprawl and increase widely pleasant pedestrian space.

Robert Greeney



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