Even though the Queen City certainly isn’t a major city, parking in downtown Burlington can often be difficult — at least, outside of pandemic times. A collaboration between the Burlington Business Association, the Burlington Department of Public Works and Burlington Code Academy may make it quite a bit easier.
Their efforts have led to the creation and launch of an interactive downtown parking map. It shows more than 7,500 parking spaces — not only on-street, but in both city-owned and privately-owned lots and garages. The map allows you to search for a destination and zoom in on the vicinity of that destination before you arrive.
“We called (the zoom-in feature) a walk circle,” Burlington Code Academy graduate Michael Muzzy said. “It draws a circle around that location that represents about a three-minute walk, so that you can really see all your options nearby.”
Muzzy and the three other members of his student team developed the map as a capstone project. “It has to be written in four weeks from scratch to a demonstratable product or proof of concept, and we did that,” he said. “And then what was left is just the little minor tweaks and things to get it ready to go live.”
Burlington Code Academy looks to work with project sponsors that have a local civic impact. In some cases, school officials reach out to local organizations, and local entities sometimes contact the school instead. “We’re really looking for organizations that have some sort of issue that can be solved with a software solution,” chief operating officer Alex Horner said.
The academy was founded in 2017 and has already developed a track record of undertaking similar projects. “We’ve helped build things for the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce — also working with the City of Burlington to create a bit of a revitalization effort for local stores to be able to sell some of their products because they were negatively impacted by COVID,” Horner said.
The downtown parking map is also a particularly timely creation because, starting April 1, the city-owned Marketplace Garage won’t offer two hours of free parking anymore. The first two hours will each cost $1. Other rates will stay the same, including free parking on Sundays. The Lakeview Garage and the College Street Garage will continue to offer two free hours.
This pricing change was originally scheduled to kick in last July, but the Burlington Public Works Commission has delayed it twice. The commission’s next meeting will be on St. Patrick’s Day — Wednesday, March 17. That meeting’s agenda wasn’t yet publicly available late Friday night, but according to Jeff Padgett of the DPW, it’ll include an effort to establish a free parking program for employees of downtown businesses.