needs to embark on a dedicated planning effort to address traffic and
parking issues raised during the Smiler’s Wharf zoning meetings. Some
creative changes to the status quo will help reduce Mystic residents
concerns on these issues. The following ideas are offered to start
the conversation with the expectation that better ideas will come to
light as part of the discussion.
For starters, changing the traffic flow into Mystic could help reduce the congestion. Making Holmes Street and Cottrell Street one way from Greenmanville Avenue to downtown Mystic and all of Willow Street one way leaving downtown Mystic could reduce the traffic back ups at the flagpole in Mystic and taking a left on Greenmanville from Holmes.
In addition, adjusting the timing of the lights at the south end of Greenmanville where it connects to Route 1 and at the corner of Greenmanville and Coogan Boulevard would also reduces some backups. Currently on a busy weekend day, long lines of traffic build up northbound on Greenmanville due to the short duration of the northbound green light. The Greenmanville/Route 1 green light also cycles very quickly and results in frequent occasions where only part of the southbound traffic can get through the light.
Mystic should also improve the parking options. The idea for Holmes Street becoming one way would also create space on the street to add parking. Adding parallel parking (or diagonal parking if it fits) could add an additional 10-15 parking spaces in close proximity to downtown. In addition, clearly marking the acceptable parking locations on all Mystic streets would help to curb some of the more creative parking spots used during the particularly high congestion days of the summer.
Mystic should also charge for on street parking. Clearly marking the parking spots and implementing one of many options to charge for parking could become a significant revenue generator for the town. We could accomplish parking enforcement using high school or college students interested in policing during the summer months.
Finally, establishing a shuttle service to run between downtown Mystic, Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium/Olde Mystick Village area will allow visitors to move between the major attractions without driving themselves. One option would be to use the school buses for this shuttle during the summer when they are not needed for student transportation. A free shuttle could be partially funded by donations from riders and the revenue generated from the parking fees. This type of shuttle service would reduce the traffic and parking issues during the busy summer months.
I recently returned from a vacation at Bar Harbor Maine situated next to Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor face similar traffic and parking issues. With generous donations from L.L. Bean, Bar Harbor has set up an extensive free shuttle service to bring tourists into and out of Acadia. Bar Harbor also recently implemented a pay to park system using kiosks where parkers pay with credit cards or cash to get a ticket to put in their car to show they paid. One of the Bar Harbor merchants mentioned that the revenue from the parking was $10,000 a day during the peak summer season. This seems like a significant revenue opportunity for Mystic that should be investigated.
The clear public distaste for the traffic and parking situation in Mystic warrants action to help improve this situation. The Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Police Commissioners should take this opportunity to discuss and take actions on methods to alleviate the traffic and parking issues before the next major development request gets submitted in Mystic. The ideas discussed above are a starting point, we need to solicit modifications or completely new ideas on the subject. This effort needs to be a community discussion and not a final plan thrown out for public approval.