SALEM — Traffic should move smoother, and parking be easier to find, as the city descends into the annual chaos that is Haunted Happenings. Driver-friendly tech is due for installation on two of the city's downtown garages, while pedestrian-friendly crossing signal systems are being added at up to eight busy intersections. Both sets of upgrades will be installed by the time October revelers blow into the Witch City. The first of the two upgrades focuses on space-finding tech being installed in the Museum Place and South Harbor parking garages to track how many cars enter and leave the garages, according to Matt Smith, the city's traffic and parking director. The program is provided as a free two-month pilot through Canadian tech company Parking Logix.
Once the upgrade is finished, both garages will be effectively tracking how many open spaces are available and relaying that information to the Internet, according to Smith. "We can put widgets, for example, on the City of Salem website as well as Destination Salem and Parking Salem so it can provide the number of spaces live," Smith said. "If they're planning to come to Museum Place Garage, they can go online and quickly look at that." The pilot effort will run for two months — capturing garage parking for the city when traffic is at its worst in October, and when it's much lighter in November. If expanded, the program can also be rolled out "on surface lots" like the Church Street parking lot, according to Smith. While the idea behind Parking Logix is relatively new, the pedestrian upgrades aren't as much. Crews are installing "smart signal upgrades" at several intersections throughout downtown Salem to link several traffic lights and tweak signal times based on traffic flow in and out of the area. "Concurrent crossing phases" are being added in several of those intersections, meaning crossing signals will automatically activate and move crowds alongside traffic heading in the same direction, according to Smith. The alternative now is stopping all traffic and allowing pedestrians to cross exclusively. The crossing signal tech is already used in major cities across the country, according to Smith. Boston is a notable example.
"For every minute and a half, if it's 30 seconds (of pedestrian crossing time being removed), you're going to lose one sequence," Smith said. "But within five minutes, (traffic is) gaining several cycles from people being able to cross." With that, traffic will move faster entering and exiting downtown — and so too will foot traffic, according to Smith.
**City Council sets Halloween-time parking rules
Several Haunted Happenings-timed parking changes are also about to take effect, as voted by the City Council at a regular meeting Thursday night. First, a $20 fee is being placed on parking at the two garages and the Church Street lot every Saturday and Sunday throughout October, as well as Monday, Oct. 9, and Tuesday, Oct. 31. The fee will be waived for Salem residents during those times — and on Oct. 31, for anyone parking specifically after 5 p.m. The crescent-shaped lot around the MBTA commuter rail stop on Bridge Street will also be open to residents only on those days, at no charge. The Universal Steel parking lot next to F.W. Webb on Bridge Street is also opening up $20-per-spot parking, run by several Salem youth groups, including the high school's Football Boosters and Drama Club. The request was amended to also collect information on what's brought in for revenue, as the financials on the parking lot has been a frequent dispute surrounding the sale of the lot for F.W. Webb's planned expansion next-door. Restrictions have also been placed on several streets that, throughout October, will be restricted to residential parking only. The following streets are covered: Becket Avenue, Bridge, Broad, Downing, Endicott to Margin, Hathorne, Howard to Webb, Margin (west side only), Mt. Vernon, Prescott, Summer, Winthrop, and Union streets. As amended by Famico, businesses on those streets will be granted two parking passes each.
Salem reporter Dustin Luca DLuca@salemnews.com