Proposal to Require New Developments to Cut Solo Drivers Moves Closer to Approval

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Some Councilors worried about the impact of requiring businesses and residential complexes to have a plan to control the number of people making solo driving trips, especially on small businesses, but two Town Council subcommittees agreed to move the proposal forward.

On Wednesday night, the Ad Hoc Traffic and Rules and Ordinances subcommittees held a joint meeting to work through details of Traffic Demand Management plans. These plans would be required for developments of 10,000 square feet or more or residential projects with 10 or more units, if the project requires a special permit and site plan review from the town.

Plans could include steps like educating employees or residents about public transit options, providing free MBTA passes, organizing carpools and providing facilities for people bicycling to work to cleanup and dress for work. If a plan is not followed or the goals are not met, the development can be fined up to $300.

It also applies to projects that projects that generate 150 average daily trips (someone driving to and from a complex would count as two trips), or more than 15 at peak hours.

Councilor Ken Woodland said some of the language in the proposal concerned him.

“I am concerned this would apply to some pretty small businesses,” Woodland said.

The subcommittee wanted to exclude customers of retail or restaurants from being counted, but still wanted to have it apply to a bigger retail establishment.

“We can’t penalize owners because customers are driving to patronize their business,” said Councilor Vincent Piccirilli.

He worried, however, how separating the customers from employees when counting trips could be done.

The subcommittee members agreed to add an exemption for retail customers. They already had exemptions for child care facilities and land or structures owned or leased by the state or “its agencies, subdivisions or bodies politic.”

Even if they are not required to reduce the number of customers driving solo to a business, Councilor Tony Palomba said businesses could still do things to encourage them to find alternate ways of getting there even if it is not required by the proposal.

“They could do things such as having bike racks and five percent off if they show they used public transportation,” Palomba said.

Exactly how much they would be required to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips was not included in the proposal. The townwide goal is 20 percent, but the goal for each individual project would be decided when they work with the Planning Board and Zoning Board on their special permit or site plan reviews, Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon said.

The Councilors stressed it is 20 percent of the number of trips, not 20 percentage points. So the overall residential single occupancy vehicle use of 68 percent townwide would have a goal of dropping to 54 percent, not 48 percent, Piccirilli said.

Before the proposal goes to the full Council for consideration, the subcommittees voted to send it to the town’s attorney to look it over. The proposal will then return to the joint subcommittees which will vote on whether to send it to the Full Town Council.

5 thoughts on “Proposal to Require New Developments to Cut Solo Drivers Moves Closer to Approval

  1. I only have a one word response, and it is DUMB!
    I cannot wait for the next election for town councilors. Some of these over the edge councilors must be voted out and replaced with councilors to have some who can relate to us old townies.

  2. Like the plastic bag ban, it comes down to enforcement…. how much effort and who does it?

    A $300 fine sounds like chump change for developers…. that’s called “cost of doing business” … $300 per day might get their attention.

    As for all the carve-outs and exemptions, why don’t you save some time and select the unpopular businesses that this actually would apply to… it’s a shorter list.

  3. If the goal is to reduce traffic in Watertown, maybe the councillors should have considered the traffic impact before all the new residential developments were approved. Hundreds of new apartments and condos in Watertown equal hundreds of more cars in Watertown. Why didn’t anyone realize that? Now you want to punish people who are driving to Watertown to work in a business located in Watertown and you want to ask the business owners to give up some of their income to reward people who either carpool, take public transportation, walk, or bike to the business. Doesn’t make sense to me.

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