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Online reservations have cut beach traffic, mayor says | News


Gloucester’s switch to an online parking reservation system that provides digital daily passes for out-of-town beachgoers this summer has cut beach traffic, city officials say.

So far, revenues collected online instead of at the gates or through the former seasonal non-resident stickers is in line with past summer tourist seasons, according to Mayor Greg Verga.

“We are pretty much on track where we have been in past years,” said Verga in an interview about revenues and how the system is working out in general.

The online reservation system went live May 19. From then to July 5, the city has sold 18,889 passes, according to Chief Administrative Officer Jill Cahill.

Broken down, that works out to be:

  • 7,861 parking passes sold for Wingaersheek Beach.
  • 7,591 parking passes for Good Harbor Beach.
  • 3,374 parking passes for Stage Fort Park.
  • 63 parking passes for motorcycles.

Weekend and holiday daily rates are $35 for Wingaersheek and Good Harbor beaches; $25 for Stage Fort Park; and $10 for a motorcycle parking pass. The weekday rates are $30 for Wingaersheek and Good Harbor beaches, $20 for Stage Fort Park and $5 for a motorcycle.

There are 500 visitor spots available at both Good Harbor and Wingaersheek and the city has sold them out eight times this year, on May 28 to 30 (Memorial Day weekend), June 25 and 26, July 1, and July 3 and 4.

While the parking pass sales numbers provided by the city are not broken down by passes sold on the weekdays and weekends which have different rates, selling out both Good Harbor and Wingearsheek on a weekend day, with 1,000 spots between them, alone represents $35,000 in revenue to city coffers.

The nonresident beach parking reservation system (https://gloucesterweb.yodelpass.com/Beaches/Pass.aspx#/) was put in place primarily to cut down on traffic from people driving to Gloucester in the hope of scoring a coveted beach parking spot at one of the city’s three prime beaches. Signs posted at Grant Circle, for instance, let out-of-towners know they need a beach reservation.

Instead of paying cash to a parking attendant, the system, which provides parking availability in real time, allows out-of-towners to reserve a spot up to 10 days in advance. Passes are for daily use, and are only valid for the date and time selected, according to the city’s Yodel website. Passes are nonrefundable or transferable and cannot be canceled. There has been no change to the resident beach sticker application process.

“Traffic and congestion at and around the beach areas has improved,” Cahill said in an email. “The feedback from residents in that area has been positive. There are still lines to enter the beach at certain times of day and we continue to assess ways to make improvements. Summer staffing shortages are an on-going challenge, especially the lack of parking lot attendants.”

Anecdotally, Verga said he ran into some people this weekend who, he paraphrased, told him, “Hey, the traffic is really good, great job.” A summer resident on Atlantic Street emailed the city that he has not seen a traffic backup.

In speaking with the Police Department in comparing this year with previous years, Verga said they have not been asked to direct beach traffic at pinch points.

“We were taking a chance,” Verga said of implementing the reservation system, an effort begun by the previous administration. “We felt strongly it was going to reduce traffic and it has.”

The city is still working out some issues with the online system, and the mayor said city officials have been meeting regularly with Yodel representatives and that work is ongoing. Verga said they are working on a method for providing a refund for people who may click on the wrong date by accident.

Verga said the interface to purchase the pass takes place through a website, which is not maximized to be read on a 2- by 4-inch cellphone screen. He said ideally it would be better if the purchase could be done through an app on one’s phone. Yodel does provide an app so users can download parking passes to a digital wallet for display.

“The majority of the problems people are having are with the program itself so we are meeting weekly with the Yodel team to address them and make improvements to the user experience,” Cahill said. “We are also working through how to offer better customer service at the city level when issues arise.”

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714,or at eforman@northofboston.com.




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