During the summer, tourism peaks in Charlestown, with visitors traveling to see the neighborhood’s historic sites by car, by foot - and to the displeasure of some residents, by tour bus.
For the past couple of years, Charlestown residents have repeatedly complained that tour bus drivers will park, letting their engines run for long periods on Chelsea Street and around Monument Square, thus polluting the air.
Bill Galvin, a member of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council, said that buses often double park in front of his home on Monument Square. While they don’t block traffic, he said, especially when parked on the side closet to the monument, they do emit exhaust.
“No one wants them idling anywhere,” he said.
However, Galvin said most buses end up on Chelsea Street, and that police have not adequately enforced a state law that prohibits vehicles from idling there or anywhere else more than five minutes.
“If the city enforced the idling laws,” he said, “there would be far fewer complaints.”
Fighting the fumes
The Charlestown Neighborhood Council, neighbors, park rangers, the Boston Police Department and public officers have worked to eliminate the nuisance, though some parties have disagreed about where to put the buses.
For instance, neighbors who attended a May 25 meeting at the Charlestown police station decided that directing drivers to park on Chelsea Street instead around Monument Square would eliminate noise, pollution and double parking there.
Monument Square resident Ivey St. John, who attended the meeting, supported having drivers park on Chelsea Street as long as they didn’t run their engines because she said their presence could slow traffic on the busy street.
But members of the Neighborhood Council, including David Whelan, rejected that approach because the council has long opposed allowing tour buses to park on Chelsea Street because of emissions and a perceived threat to public safety.
Whelan said that fewer buses have been illegally parking and idling on Chelsea Street since he met with public officials, including City Councilor Sal LaMattina, about the nuisance.
“We’ve taken the first steps to alleviate the issue,” he said, “but it requires constant reinforcing.”
He said that several years ago, the council persuaded Autoport, an 80-acre site at 100 Terminal Street, to let drivers to park on the property. But he said many drivers decline to do so because of the $20 fee.
Meanwhile, The Boston National Historic Park website advises drivers to park in the Nautica Parking Garage, at 88 Constitution Road.
Sgt. Thomas Lema, of the Boston Police Department, suggested that a member of the Charlestown Neighborhood Council volunteer to help police and park rangers direct tour bus drivers to legal parking areas.
“Hopefully in partnership with the Boston Transportation Department, the National Park Service and the bus companies,” Lema said, “they’ll get the message that if they prefer not to park at Autoport, that they don’t park on streets in Charlestown.”