City partners with BU AdLab to revamp Park Card program

On December 11, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Park Cards have been in circulation since 2006; New City meters, pilot programs continue to add incentives for Park Card payment; Ad Lab campaigns will be introduced in 2012.

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Director of Traffic & Parking Matt Dias announced this month a partnership at Boston University’s AdLab, to work with students to create on an ongoing campaign to increase use of City-issued Park Cards.  Park Cards, in circulation since 2006, can be purchased through the City of Somerville in $20 or $50 increments, and conveniently eliminate the need to carry quarters for parking meters, as well as allowing users to recoup their money for any unused parking time.  In recent months, T&P has undergone several meter and parking kiosk pilot programs and, if implemented citywide, each device would continue to allow use of Park Cards.

“As we continue working to improve our customer service, consistent with the Mayor’s commitment to provide accurate, courteous and easy customer service, the partnership with AdLab is a natural progression to help promote existing and useful technology,” said Dias.  “Park Cards make parking at meters – in squares and in municipal lots – so much easier for drivers and a lot easier on your wallet.  After reviewing the product and its repayment option, we did not understand the low usage.  We know they are great; but the public does not,” Dias stated.  “and that is what the students will help us with.”

In advance of the campaign, the AdLab students are conducting an online survey seeking to better understand residents’ parking habits and how residents received parking-related information.  The survey will be used to direct the marketing campaign, and determine which segments of the population already use and/or are familiar with the Park Card technology.

“We believe AdLab will be a great creative partner, designing a new advertising campaign that will, hopefully, educate residents and visitors about parking in Somerville’s business districts,” Dias said.  “The students at Boston University and AdLab have been wonderful to work with thus far, and I look forward to sharing their work with the entire community.  In the meantime, residents can learn more about AdLab by  viewing a recent segment on Chronicle, available at the following link:”

The survey can be found in any of the following locations:

Park Card can be purchased at Traffic & Parking, 133 Holland Street, for $20 or $50, and can be used at any City meter.  Cards are inserted upon parking at the meter, and drivers will receive the full allowable parking time.  At the end of the visit, cards can be reinserted to redeem any remaining time and money, to be used for future parking ventures.

For more information on the Park Card or any other City of Somerville parking policy, visit or call 311.


16 Responses to “City partners with BU AdLab to revamp Park Card program”

  1. A Moore says:

    we did not understand the low usage. Huh? They want to force us to pay to park on a PUBLIC street and expect us to want to go along with this. I have not put one cent into a meter since the squares went back to using them and will continue not to do so. Bad enough we have to buy a special permit to park on your own street that you own a house on and and pay taxes for . What’s next? Ridiculous. This used to be such a nice city. What more can they do to ruin it?

  2. Jey R. says:

    Sadly, I feel the same way as A. Moore does. Why would anyone have to pay to park on their own street? I live on the hill and don’t mind parking in Medford and walking home but it’s still ridiculous.

    Next thing you know we will be charged for breathing… I swear it is coming.

  3. j. connelly says:

    Meanwhile while we pay…Tax-Exempt Tufts continues to spit in our faces.
    The problem is not the students..the problem is the attitude of the Tufts University hierarchy…Et tu Brute….screw the city & the taxpayers….

    You drive down Sawyer Ave, Professors Row, etc., you will note there are city hydrants.,..thus these are city streets…maintained by our tax dollars. Yet Tufts posts their own signage announcing restricted parking for Tufts staff, etc. Packard Ave has signage announcing that from 1:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. it is permit parking….evidently after that there is the implication it is their territory….There is no city signage posted on these city streets.

    I want the mayor/BOA to place parking meters in these areas….

    why should the taxpayers be subjected to parking rules, including in front of their own home…yet a tax-exempt organization has free reign of public streets???

  4. j. connelly says:

    By the way….

    Let us hope that the Ad Lab students keep their wholesomeness when the move to work in the real world…..Again, students 10++…University Hierarchy – minus negative 0 & thensome.

    In the meantime let us hope that the Curse o the Bambino, or something similar befalls both Wall St & Madison Ave, who have been ripping off the American people with false and harmful actions for years.

  5. A Moore says:

    When they did away with the meters for while they still made money off the time limit one could stay there. I sort of disagreed with that on principle but it really was only fair to the businesses so no one would just stay parked there all day. The idea was to help the businesses out. I don’t know in the end if it helped or not as I never heard anything on it. This probably gets a bit off topic but there was talk of zoning the permit parking so we could not park with our permits outside of our zone. Don’t know what’s happening with that either.

  6. Harry says:

    I know I am preaching to the choir here, but those park meter cards hardly ever work right and they’re a rip-off to boot. There’s a goofy trick with getting them to work and any time I’ve used them – even if I am only going to park for 1/2 hour or an 1 hour – it nails you for 2 hours. So the city is getting the extra money on every parking spot when someone uses the parking card as no one ever goes for exactly 2 hours. That’s why the city wants to push these – it’s for suckers.

    We don’t need an AD & Marketing campaign to promote these park cards. What we need to do is either get rid of the meters all together (better chance of seeing God) or knowing that isn’t happening then at least have a park card system on the meters that work easily and are a bit flexible. Like … the ability to say “1 hour only please.” and you pay for 1 hour only or better yet on the 1/2 hour.

    Again…. the city is all about the taxes/fees/fines now. You just know some clown up in city hall bought this system after viewing some spreadsheet showing the city can make an extra 1% off the saps who use these cards every day. All this greediness just to pay for a bloated and inefficient city government, corrupt unions and excessive benefits/pensions for non-residents.

    This city has a well deserved reputation NOW for being a miserable place to come and park. How do you think that has helped local businesses? Amazing how short-sighted our city “leaders” are.

  7. Joseph Keller says:

    Next, pay rent to live in the house you own… Oh dear…

  8. Charlie says:

    I think the main reason why people don’t use the Park Cards is that you have to buy one at the Traffic and Parking office. If there were machines or stores you could buy them from in each of the squares, I think more people would use them.

    To those who think parking should be free, there are three reasons why this is a bad idea:
    – It is much more difficult to enforce time-based parking, since a parking officer has to mark when each car arrived and then check up on it later to see if it has been in the same space for too long. With meters, they only need to see if the meter is expired or not.
    – Because there is limited parking, charging for it creates a disincentive to drive, promoting other modes which can accommodate far more people than parking spaces would allow for.
    – Just because a street is public doesn’t mean you have the right to store your personal property on it. Why should the City or non-car-owning taxpayers pay for your parking space?

  9. Mark says:

    I agree with Charlie– I’d rather pay to park and not worry about getting a parking ticket. In fact, I’d be willing to pay more to park if the City got rid of time limits all together. Let price manage turn over.

  10. Joe says:

    ~Your argument is valid, except it doesn’t explain why the city feels the need to charge 25 cents for each 15 minutes. It is obvioulsy to raise revenue on the backs of drivers and businesses, and has nothing to do with how difficult it may be to enforce parking restrictions without meters.
    ~I always love the argument that if you don’t provide parking, people will walk, or bike, or perhaps parachute in to Davis Square. What it really does is send people elsewhere to shop or dine. Do you consider the people who must drive to their destination for a myriad of reasons?
    ~Parking on a city street while I run into the Post Office or a drugstore is now ‘storing’ my property? A real stretch. The city and non-car-owning taxpayers maintain the streets for many reasons, one of which is because it’s better than a patch of dirt. And by the way, vehicle excise taxes are supposed to pay for the maintenance of the roads. So I would ask you, why should the car-owning-taxpayers pay for bicycle lanes on the roads, or pay to park on a road that they have already paid for?

  11. Charlie says:

    Great questions Joe. I’ll try to answer them the best I can.

    – I think part of why the City charges what it does is to help fill the budget gap without raising property taxes, but mostly it’s to encouraging parking turnover and to try to impose at least some of the cost of maintaining the parking spaces onto parkers themselves.
    – Many cities have shown that when you provide more parking or cheap/free parking, more people drive. People respond to the incentives they are given. One of the main reasons why Boston has high rates of walking, bicycling, and transit is because parking in downtown Boston is limited and expensive. However if you were to provide lots of free cheap parking in Boston, you’d need to use a lot more land for parking, and you’d need much larger streets to handle the traffic. Basically, you’d have to lose the density and relatively low levels of traffic that makes Boston so appealing for walking, bicycling, and transit.
    – While vehicle excise taxes do pay for part of the cost of roads, the majority of the cost of maintaining local roads is paid for by general taxes that everyone pays into, not just drivers. Because cars (and trucks) cause a lot more wear and tear on the roads than pedestrians and bicycles do, car drivers pay extra taxes (excise tax for local roads, gas tax for state roads). By charging for parking, the City is trying to put the cost of the extra pavement and maintenance needed to provide parking spaces (as opposed to just travel lanes) onto the users of that parking.

  12. Larry says:

    Just one more note to all. The fees charged for the permits are being increased AGAIN this year. First they institute city-wide parking permits, then they raise the fee each year. Sounds like another tax! They have also increased the age for free stickers. As a home owner, I would think that the city would give me a sticker or 2, or at least a plackard for visitor parking, but that of course is a dream! This brings me to a question:
    I see many of the teachers have parking permits, Do thy pay for their permits or are they given to them? One last comment, I agree with the person who said the meters should be installed all around the Tufts area. As was pointed out by j.connelly they do not pay any taxes so why not collect money from meters or ticketing from them!

  13. sue says:

    Charlie, what you seem to be missing, is that pedestrians and bicyclists use the roads just as much as everyone else. They buy food which was transported by truck, and they ride buses. By your analysis, their bus trips cause more wear and tear on the roads than my car does. And in case you haven’t noticed, my excise taxes are paying for the city to eliminate parking spaces…..where’s my refund? Using your logic, why is there not a bicycle tax to pay for bike racks, painting bike lanes, etc.? Have you been to Downtown Crossing lately? Lack of parking has done a world of good for that area, hasn’t it? It used to be thriving and vibrant, now it’s a wasteland, with a huge hole in the middle where a department store once stood.

  14. Winter Hill Barney says:

    sue, you think parking availability had something to do with the decline of Downtown Crossing? Really? Pfffffft.

    I too avoid the meters, and find it annoying that they run so late into the evening, but citywide resident parking is great. It has greatly improved the situation on my street.

  15. j. connelly says:

    Hey, contact the American civil liberties union, tell their lawyers it is discriminatory & unjust to charge people to pay to park their cars via either parking permit [for in front of their home] and parking meters [when they go to shop]

    Yet they do not charge the bikes to park in the squares or those attached to sign posts/utility poles in their neighborhoods.

    There are 2 minor problems;

    [1] you will probably have to go to Guantanamo to find the ACLU lawyer

    [and after all this is Somerville]

    [2] if your car hits a utility pole that has a bike attached to it…In this city you will probably be sentenced to the electric chair for damage to the bike.

  16. j. connelly says:

    Speaking of bikes….I do hope that our Board of Aldermen reject any idea of the city renting bicycles to the public.

    A] In these “Tight fiscal times” this is wrong.

    more importantly

    B] The city officials have no right to place an unnecessary/unjust liability burden on the taxpayers from lawsuits that will result when some careless biker using a city owned bike, strikes a pedestrian or someone’s property causing injury/damage.

    Let the bike shops rent bikes and be responsible for them. Down the line bikes will end up being required to have insurance, excise tax and be licensed.

    Once the state/cities/lawyers see the added revenue they will get down the line in fees.

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