Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parking in the Globe

If you're coming here from the Globe, welcome. What did you think of my op-ed? Leave a comment.

If you didn't see it, I have an op-ed in the Globe today in which I argue that on-street parking is too cheap in Boston.


bloggrrl said...

Hey, I really liked your column and thought it brought up an interesting point that I haven't heard before.
I think another factor at play in a lot of parts of the city -- not necessarily Newbury Street or Comm Ave., where most people who want to can afford to pay for a dedicated resident spot -- is the fact that the city is too lax in ticketing non-residents who park in permit-only areas. Having lived all over the city, I'd say this extends through the Back Bay and into Cambridge and Somerville! There's a lot of (ticket) revenue lost, and frustration for people who DO pay to keep resident permits on their cars, when the city allows people coming in from outside for special events to crowd residential areas with no consequences.
I also think that Boston/Cambridge needs to force developers to add parking, either in garages or small lots, whenever they build/convert new condos. When single family homes get chopped up and six apartments come in with several drivers apiece, you can see what happens.
I suppose in a perfect world, the T would be more reliable and extensive and people could leave their cars behind, or not own them in the first place:)
Anyway, just my two cents, again thanks for the interesting viewpoint!

Brian said...

Well-written and interesting article Sean.

A few thoughts...

1) Why increase costs? We should be trying to lower them for culture's sake.

Even though Boston is relatively small, it is one of the most expensive places to live in the US. Increasing costs (even less significant ones like parking) is moving us in the wrong direction - if you are concerned at all about economic diversity. Higher costs would mean you'd see less Toyotas and more Porsches.

2) Complexity and Confusion.

To implement a true market-driven cost, real-time vacancy would have to be a factor. If were to head into work very early in Back Bay (i.e. 5AM), most of the meter spots are vacant, even though the cost of parking is free at this time. But wait a few hours, and there is practically no vacancy. I think a market-driven system could be technologically implemented. For instance, as the number of spots on a block are used up, the hourly cost increases. But people would be confused and perhaps angered as their co-parkers may get better deals.

3) Why fix something that's not broken?

The age-old question. There are market forces in action here, although not completely monetary. Convenience is a big factor. With the scarcity of parking, people are either forced to pay more for private parking or not drive their automobiles. Spending money to implement a system with the end purpose of charging people more money won't win many votes either.

Charlie D. said...

Great piece! It's nice to see that this information is spreading into mainstream instead of just being circulated around the transportation-geek community. (I'm a self-proclaimed transportation geek myself.) If you're not yet aware, LivableStreets ( has a presentation about parking that makes many of the same points you did (market rate pricing, 15% vacancy, funneling money back into communities, off-street vs on-street pricing, etc). They will send a person out to speak to any group you want and teach them about this modern way of addressing parking needs.

brichardsonfca said...

Interesting ideas, but before I'd be willing to go further on this, there are some errors. How could you attend an American League baseball game by parking at a meter with a two-hour limit? With a game averaging at least three hours, you'ld be taking quite a gamble at getting a ticket or be leaving early to move the car.

Repeated meter feedings are illegal. A limit is attached to all meters. If BTD is not tagging for these over-limit cars it is an enforcement issue not a problem with the policy.

Short term parking is always much less expensive even at private market rate lots. Go to a hospital sometime. Less than two-hours you're in and out for a couple of bucks. Stay longer than three and the rate jumps dramatically.

There is no charge for resident permits in Boston. Where does the $30.00 figure come from? I have always advocated for a processing fee to maintain the program on a yearly basis. BTD officials refuse to even entertain the idea of charging anything for a permit as it would lead too many to believe they are entitled to a space. Right now the program gives residents access to long term parking on neighborhood streets as a benefit to living in the city which as you might not know was not too popular even just as little as thirty years ago.

Rick said...

Great column Sean. You convincingly present some counter-intuitive solutions to an important problem. I think that the revenue generated from increased on-street parking fees should go directly to improving the city's public transportation system, which will shoulder the happy burden of decreased automobile traffic. Let's face it, the major reason most people would rather drive to work, or the store, is because public transportation is such a reliably unpleasant experience.