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Amharic-Speaking Focus Group Feedback


1/29/22 Summary of  Comments

  • Some people think driving around Cambridge is easy, and others think it has become more difficult after the City has put in some bike and bus lanes in various places.
  • Finding parking is extremely difficult. Near shopping areas, it’s getting harder because parking spaces are being used for restaurant customers.
  • People who live in large apartment buildings want more parking spaces available for their own cars and for visitors. Some people tell visitors to park far away in public parking areas and they drive their own car to pick up their visitors to bring them back to their homes. Not having a parking pass for a car means people don’t leave their house as often as they would like because feel like they won’t be able to park when they get home.
  • The resident parking permit program works well, except it can be hard to find a space on the street. One person is a home healthcare worker who has a Cambridge resident sticker has been told to move their car away from resident street parking in front of a patient’s house because they are perceived as a stranger.
  • Parking meter prices have increased, and meter times have decreased, but if you don’t have coins, you might get a ticket because you might not know how to use the app, especially older people.
  • Parking difficulties affect where the Ethiopian community can gather for large events.
  • Because parking is difficult, people walk or take public transportation, but they would rather have parking become easier instead.
  • Some people enjoy walking for exercise or to get to work, but restaurant seating makes the city feel crowded, and it is scary when people ride bikes on sidewalks.
  • One person thinks that having more traffic lights and police officers could help people feel safer because it might cause people to drive more cautiously.
  • Buses either don’t run often enough, or late enough, or don’t feel safe enough to be a good travel option for people.
  • Cold winter whether makes it harder to walk, bike, and take the bus.

Focus group quotes include:

Driving and parking

  • Driving around Cambridge is not really difficult. The only part is getting parking is very difficult. Especially if you go around shopping area, it's hard to get parking. And also, if you put meter, meter will be too expensive too.
  • I have 3 kids, different schools. And I have to drive everywhere. But lately Cambridge's driving has become a nightmare because they took some of the bike lane, bus lane. … There's no parking, there's nothing, I mean there's a disaster. I don't know who's making those decisions. It's not the right decision they're making for people who live in Cambridge. My older kids go in Cambridge Hospital and they took most of the parking. There's no parking that area … Driving used to be very easy in Cambridge area, but not anymore. I would rather walk than drive, but sometimes we have to drive, we have to go to a hair dresser, we have to go to a small business around our area. Because we cannot find parking, we have to go out of our city to another city where we can find parking. Malden, Everett. Easily we can get it in Cambridge, but because of the parking, we have to go out … All of us have kids and relatives in Cambridge area, but we cannot go anywhere because of the parking. We have to walk or take public transportation.

    The permit parking working fine for, I believe, all the Cambridge residents because if you live in Cambridge and you have kids, you do most of the stuff in Cambridge, so it's gonna be easy access to park. but if you took that out and put a bike, bus lane, that's in the future, I believe it's going to affect most people. Especially with your kids … My kids don't drive a bike. I don't let them because I don't believe, it's not safe. The little one, she's only 8 and the other one she's 13, she goes all the way to Putnam Ave, so no.

    And winter time--we live in Boston, so there's more winter time. The kids take school buses but when they have another activity after school I have to go get them after school. The school bus system in the wintertime, they have to stay outside for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, the bus always late, so I don't want them to stay outside. And after we drop them off, we have to make it to work, so we have to drive around. We can't afford take an Uber every day because we are middle class people. We don't have that money to spend. I think that's what the future will look like--Cambridge is pushing us to take Uber or transportation, but not all of us we can afford that. Because we're living check by check, it's not like we have extra money to take Uber or Lyft.

    I do have 1 parking but it is 2 [cars] we have and as one of us is at work, my husband is at work, if I have to go pick up something, during the day, I have to go do something, get medicine, get milk, I can't go out because there's no parking. It shouldn't be. There's not a single parking in Concord Ave. to park so I'm missing so much stuff to do. I can't leave the house. I can't go nowhere. Because when I come back I don't have a parking.

    They taking a lot of places for this building everywhere right now. Every corner you go, they're building. There's more people moving in the City, but there's no parking, so the future, what's going to be? I mean, did they ever think about this? Do they have a plan for it? Like at least there should be a rule if you have a big building, there should be another parking lot next to it…


  • Basically, all the fast food area around Central Square. To take us as an example. There's lots of McDonalds, if you want to go there, it's hard to find parking, as well.
  • That area [Central Square] is a very chaotic place to drive your car. A lot of honking, a lot of aggravation by most drivers. The parking, and nowadays the restaurants have been cutting off the streets. The streets are narrow to drive. … I don't know what the next step is going to be. Either close Mass Ave forever or no driving in that Mass Ave area? I go every day there, I have a part-time job going over there. I'm looking at all the chaotic things that I see. I don't know how to explain it. Something must be done about that. There is no parking in those areas, there are very few meter parkings.

Same thing with Fresh Pond Parkway at Alewife Brook Parkway. It is jam-packed on certain hours. People don't even realize who has to go first and who has to go next. Especially on the circular area, everybody tries to jump in … We need more traffic lights and more police officers watching this area because it's so difficult.

Resident parking is good. It helps. But all those resident parking are cut short now … most of these places that used to have parking, they are all now meter parkings. Especially when the high-rise buildings, like the one next to McDonalds, the Marketplace Building, I believe. In that area, even in Columbia Street, you don't find parking as you used to do. So this must be taken into consideration and people have to deal with this thing very seriously. We are residents. We live check by check. We can't afford to pay for parking in that building. It's very, very expensive for people who rent that apartment. I think the City must take into consideration some of the things and return back our City parking areas.

  • It's bad, right now after Covid. Especially driving, it's hell. Everywhere the road is crowded and they messed up the road to make it like a restaurant, one-way, especially Cambridge Street. Mass Ave. The parking spot on Central Square, it used to be Harvest, now it's Hmart area. In general the parking around Cambridge right now is too hassle. I have bad experience with the parking, the road is so crowded right now. They make it like one-way, one-way everywhere, Cambridge Street especially is the restaurant stuff. It's tough for us to get on time job and dropping kids, it is really a problem.

Bike has two lanes, like on left and right sometimes. The bike riders, they come into the drive way. They're supposed to get a bike way. They're quick. They're sudden, you know? It's been dangerous.


Mass Ave to Arlington—Most of the street, they cut it for the bus lane. They make it crowded. Boston by itself, the road is small, crowded with just the small lane. It's getting worse now. The bus taking that lane, they give for a bus, you can't drive on the bus line, which is more smaller. And then make the traffic worse than it used to be before.


When I go to market, when we go to Cambridge, Central, you know there is a lot of shopping center. There's an Hmart, there's a CVS, a Walgreens, before it was very convenient, you had the back of the parking spot, now they put shopping, sometimes I think every Monday, they block all the street. We cannot pick up the kids. We cannot go pick up stuff from Walgreens, CVS … Where you going to park and then stop? We can't go to Central Square. It's just getting… I'm sorry being repeated. This is really painful, sometimes I have to pick up prescription at Walgreens and CVS, there's no parking, how you going to pick up? You have to go all the way around and get parking. The parking in Cambridge now they put it to make us discourage, stop driving, like 8 minute for 25 cents … When you don't have money. The people doesn't have an access online payment, will you get a ticket? $40, it depends on the site where you park, start from $25 to $40, was in a second. City Hall area, they put a 12 minutes, it used to be 30 minutes for 25 cents. So the person has to be personally educated enough to go online access to pay the parking. Now they put new technology, the app, they put the bar code, you scan it and then they process it. The 65 yrs old or one of the person who can't read English, so what can they do? They put that quarter. They don't have enough quarters, 12 minutes the meter guys sneak over there and give you a ticket.


When I see this all discouragement, on we rush, busy, immigrant, try our best to on time, drop the kids to school and go to work, being on time. It's not convenient for us. They discourage us to give up driving, so what's going to happen next? My age is gone, I'm not young. Used to be I run to the bus, I run to the train. Especially after Covid, the train is so hell. 40 minutes, 25 minutes, especially after 10 pm. One experience, in December, I work the temp agency Aquarium. Always the event done like 12 am, like 11:30. You know how long I stay in train station? The last train I never experience because I had no choice from Aquarium so I had to take the train to North Station, it's very close—1 hour and 40 mins. There's no train. I have to call someone, I don't have Uber. I have to call someone to pick me up. After 12 am, who gonna come and pick you up? How could you walk? Some of the public transportation after Covid, especially 69 bus East Cambridge when you miss the one bus every 20 mins (sometimes it comes after 7 pm every 40 mins), you know after 11 pm when I finish my job, sometimes it doesn't show up even 1 am. So driving is convenient for me to survive or to be on time, you know? Save my time. And convenient, comfortable, on time, reliable, save time, save money, and safety.


To be honest, bus and train, we have a lot of stuff going on in the train ... This is my comfort zone is my car and safe because protect myself from any harm and danger ... You don't predict an incident happens. Coincidence, suddenly like you're not criminal or you're not doing anything wrong, you pass by the train, somebody shoots ... Is going to make us give up no driving anymore, right? Let's go to Option 2, take a bus and train. What's going to happen with the bombing and sit down on the bus? There's no safety anymore in the public. Somebody cannot plan, I'm going to go job, work, and come back home ... every day I'm not safe, but suddenly you sit down in the bus, two people fighting, and then reckless stuff happens. So that makes me worry ... So the car is very important for me. City of Cambridge has to really, really consider our need.


Can you please be a voice of us? Can you please send a message for the City thinking convenience, respectfully asking like, flexible and convenient? Especially the road, one-way. We can't go to church event, we missed it. Our big community get together usually. The parking problems, especially, it's very sad. I'm repeating over and over. At the Bishop Allen Drive parking, which is the church always our community have an event, I don't think we can have gather anymore because of the parking spot, and they take it off. And then some places, especially the same, we would like to know the City can hear our voice, and make it something different, better. Parking.

  • I'm a homecare worker … Deep into the private area, those houses, where people live in it, when I park there, they ask me, "Move the car" because this is their belonging, this is their own private parking. Even though I have a permit, I have to go all the way to street parking to park. Not their own house because they don't want to see anybody stranger. I can say stranger because since I go to Porter work, I'm not familiar for that area or, you know, family friend. So they get suspicious. And then, hey, parking is parking. I'm not coming like your private garage, but the street next to your house is supposed to be… Since they allow anybody to park, why you get irritated?
  • At Bishop Allen Drive, there's no parking spot for the residents. Most of the parking spaces are meter, only a few of them are for the residential parking spots. So it really make it very hard for the residents to park there.
  • I live in Cambridge, in Concord Avenue the new apartments … There is not enough parking spot in their lot. I got my own reserved parking, which they allow for only one car. There's a sticker. We cannot park any other car, some of my neighbors they don't have their own parking spot.

    This is a nice conversation. I would like to thank you, those who prepared this meeting.

    I heard about the meter guys sneaking around. It is like hide and seek. They wait for you. They don't have a patient. They don't even give you a minute until you put the quarter. Sometimes they give you a ticket while you are there searching for a coin in your car, and you went around to find for coins. They don't have the patience.

Visitor parking

  • No visitors for more than 3 months. There was 6 visitor parking spot, but they say now no one cannot no park over there. Most of the time, what we do is we hassle. So what we do is, me personally, when we have a visitor, I recommend them to park wherever they want--it could be Danehy Park, it could be anywhere around and then I went there to pick them so I can bring them home.
  • We live on Concord Ave. too. So when we have a visitors, we have to tell them to park down to Trader Joes or somewhere so we'll go and pick them from there. Because there's no street parking or there's no side resident parking. There's no parking. There's no way to park around here. We have our own one space to park, but you know, we have our family around Cambridge and Boston. They come. It's tough. It's like we have to plan it. We have to get ready if somebody want to come and visit us, we have to make sure how they can park. If we have an overnight guest, even if we have the parking permit, we have to drive together with them to bring them back after we park their car so that's one of our problems too--parking for visitors and relatives.
  • I need a parking spot on my door. Believe it or not, no guests coming to my place [near Museum Way] because there is no parking … Unless they can take a public, they can't visit me. No permit parking at all … The zone guest pass—they give me one. Year to year, I never use it because there is no parking spot in my area. When my guests come to visit me, I have to allow them to park without the permit, right, so there's no parking anyways.

Walking in Cambridge

  • For me, walking is better than anything else … I walk for exercise every day, but other than that I don't walk to work, I don't walk to the stores because it's a little far.
  • I walk a lot. I walk every day. But I've seen so many scary things. Bikers coming on your way (sidewalk) while they have their own thing, and then they come in a different direction and you get scared, you know. I don't know if a biker has insurance or is required to have insurance. Just in case he hits someone, who is going to be responsible? … Especially the one in Central Square, it's very scary. On the sidewalk. They come right from the top when you're walking upwards, they come downwards, in between people. And you know how jam-packed is Central Square. And that's not acceptable at all for me because when they have own lane, why do they have to come on and risk people's safety? We must have some kind of rules for those people who are biking. Good to bike! Fine. I support it. But then again, rules are rules … Who is going to enforce them is the question. Sometimes I see police on the side of that, but nothing is taken care of.
  • When you walk, especially after Covid, most of the restaurant are taken up for seating people outside. It's (sidewalks) not really big as the same as we had before. It's getting smaller. Besides that, I mean, I walk 2, 3 minutes from my house to the workplace, so I don't see that many things different. The only thing I see is taking the walking width for customers. I don't really like it, because it's very tight, it's not really have space, especially if 2, 3 people are going together. If somebody's coming in front, you have to stop and give other people priority. That is not really comfortable. I don't really like it. Before it wasn't like that. Besides that, I don't really have issues. I don't see bike where I live.

Taking a bus and train

  • My daughter takes a bus for high school most of the time. 78 Concord Ave is better, but there is a time delayed, as usual. Taking 83 is the worst, it never even shows up. Transportation is a challenge everywhere you go in Boston, Cambridge.
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