I while ago I heard a rumor that there was a border dispute between Cambridge and Somerville. I wasn’t able to get any confirmation, so I put it out of my mind. But now it appears that I might have fallen right into it. I know what you’re thinking. This is just the sort of thing that could happen only to me. Perhaps.

As you may know, I live in Central Square, Cambridge, and work in Davis Square, Somerville. My car is registered and permitted to park in Cambridge. I don’t normally drive to work, but sometimes if I have to drive somewhere after work, it makes sense to drive there and then hop in my car directly after work. So I decided to try and optimize things by finding the point in Cambridge closest to my office in Somerville, and parking there free. It was surprisingly difficult to find an authoritative map of the border, but I eventually dug up this street cleaning zone map on the Cambridge DPW web site.  For what it’s worth, the Somerville web site had zero helpful information.

Based on this, I decided that parking on the East side of Russell street near the corner of Elm would be the optimal location, just inside the Cambridge line, but about as close to Davis square as possible. In the past, I had parked lower down Russell street where both sides are clearly Cambridge. Today I got a spot in front of 44 Russell street, a couple of houses from the corner.

Officer Soares saw it differently.

For $20 I might have sucked it up, but for $40, I decided to stand by my city’s DPW map and look into this. I visited the Cambridge police station near my home and consulted the large map on the wall. It seemed to match the street sweeping map. An officer asked me what I was doing, and I explained the situation. He picked up a phone, called some number and asked, “44 Russell street, is that us or Somerville?” and told me that it was in fact a Cambridge address. He did note that it was possible that the city line existed between the house and the curb, but could not confirm one way or the other. One could argue that the DPW map above shows that, but I assumed it was sloppy illustration.  That’s what happens when you assume, but it still sounds like reasonable doubt to me.

The back of the ticket states, “This violation may also be appealed and adjudicated by mail if supporting documentation is mailed within 21 days of issuance.” I got home and began to assemble my case. I checked a source perhaps even more respected than the police. I searched “44 Russell Street, Cambridge, MA” and got a nice map. Just to make sure, I then tried “44 Russell Street, Somerville, MA” and look what I got:

Very interesting. I think I can say with certainty that #44 is in Cambridge. Now I have to go back to the scene and double check the signs to see if there are any clues to the ownership of the street itself. So far, I haven’t been able to see any “permit parking only” signs that say Cambridge or Somerville on them.

No doubt, this story is to be continued…