Citizen complaint of the day: Does it look like snow today?

An aggrieved citizen reports on somebody using a traffic cone to save a space on Samoset Street in Dorchester.

Why dies this man insist in using a privilege not allowed others?

Why indeed? The city promptly marked the case closed, after reporting the cone was removed for disposal.



Free tagging: 


Menino cheerleader?

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OK, I'll bite: How is it that a Menino sign on his neighbor's house makes him a Menino cheerleader?

Zoom in and enhance

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The Menino sign is on the inside of the fence. And if you zoom in, it looks like there are a bunch more signs stored in the yard, upside-down and leaning against the fence.

It's a common name

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But the property is owned by a Sharon Mullen - there are over a dozen Mullens working for the city so highly possible there's some relationship. As Tom Keane pointed out in an article several years ago, If you take care of the city workers (most of whom are required to live in the city) - 3% annual raises - or more, little to no cuts in benefits even in tough times etc. you almost automatically get about 15,000 votes (all but the firefighters who curiously have about the richest contract in the city). Add in the city agencies (like Boston housing) and say one spouse or parent or friend per city/agency worker and then you have almost all the votes you need to get elected. It's not rocket science and it's part of why we haven't seen an incmbent mayor lose in Boston in over half a century.

Bottom line - as others have indicated, the worst that probably happens is she loses an orange cone or a used toilet from time to time. Pretty cheap in the scheme of things for private parking in Boston even if it's not in the heart of downtown.


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kills democracy.

In a city of 620,000 residents; 109,000 votes for the 2009 election is a travesty. Maybe the apathy is a silent confirmation of mayor, but i'm always left wonder if we couldn't be doing more, or atleast better in this city.


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Why does this man insist in using a privilege not allowed others?

I could say the same thing about street parking in general. Why do some people get given public land for nearly free to store their machinery? Why can't I get a resident permit to place a storage unit there myself? Why discriminate against me just because it doesn't have wheels and an engine? Or maybe we should not give out permits to annex public land for private use like this, in the first place? If you want land, buy or rent it.

When people feel they are entitled to take for themselves pieces of the commons like this, it's no wonder they develop this ugly space-saver culture.

You can!

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Go ahead. First, buy a car. Pay taxes, fees and insurance like the rest of us car owners do. Remember: no one gave us a car for free. On the contrary, we work to earn money to live in this city AND to pay to own/lease, drive and maintain a car... and so can you! Anyway, next, proceed to Room 224, City Hall to acquire a residential sticker for said car. Cram as much stuff as you possibly can into it and park in a residential space. Presto! You did it!

There are several such cars in my neighborhood, packed with stuff, parked in the same spot for weeks at a time, with a stack of wrinkly old parking tickets tucked underneath the windshield wiper. Alternatively, you could rent storage space somewhere. Many of us living in tiny apartments in Boston are forced to rent additional space to store our crap, but! we do have to pay for it. Much like having a car, living in the city, you do have to pay for it.

I do not wish to own a car

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Perhaps you missed the part where I wrote "doesn't have wheels and an engine?" I pay taxes. I could pay some fees for a storage unit. Why can't I use one of the street parking spaces for it?

You bought a car, and pay taxes, fees and insurance. Wonderful for you.

Why does that entitle you to get a piece of the public commons, again?

Doesn't even cover the cost

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I love it when car owners whine that "I pay for stuff so it MUST be MINE" ... when the money they pay in doesn't even come close to the actual cost of building and maintaining the roads they drive on, let alone the cost of the real estate they park on, the cost of plowing the roads in winter, street sweeping, etc.

I guess this just reflects the general lack of math ability in the US.

wishes vs. reality of life

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I 'do not wish to own a car' either. However, I'm forced to own a car due to work obligations and family obligations. That's REALITY for many Boston city residents. I would save an amazing amount of money if I did not have to own a car. Wonderful for you that your life is such where if you wish not to, you do not need to have a car. Again, we Boston residents who own cars are not entitled to a piece of public commons, we PAY to have a car to USE the public commons. And, WISH you to pay for that same opportunity, you may. Get it?

You pay?

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Which one of those fees you listed above included the payment to rent or purchase the public commons land on which you park your car?

When I did own a car, I paid for a parking space. I decided that the value proposition offered by a car did not warrant the costs, so I sold it.

The streets and the parking

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The streets and the parking have been here longer than you have, I dare say. So, to play the game -you could buy a car that doesn't have an engine. Who would know? Sure, you'll have to pay taxes, fees, insurance and parking tickets. Or, you could rent a storage unit for less. But then again, you'd have nothing to whine about.


Because these are the rules that our society (read: The PEOPLE of our fair city, state, and nation) have decided to embrace over the years. You have every right to disagree with them, but that won't change the law. If you feel strongly enough, organize and attempt to take political action.

PS Please don't bother replying with rants on the corrupt political process, etc. We all are very aware of it already.

Good luck .....

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I'm all for your storage container idea, but without wheels good luck moving it for street cleaning.

You can't use the street to

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You can't use the street to store a storage container for the same reason I can't use the runways at Logan Airport for sunbathing: our government, which we elect to do the job of regulating use of our commonly-held resources, has determined that use of the public streets for storage containers, or use of the runways for sunbathing, interferes with a more valuable and productive use of the property.

Of course, opinions differ as to what constitutes "valuable and productive." Don't like it? gather some like minded individuals and lobby your representatives. Or run for office.

I'm fully aware of that

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Although I take issue with your comparison of Logan airport runways, and the public rights of way which occupy 30-40% of the public space in front of all our homes and businesses.

I'm using the storage container argument as an example hypothetical to show how ridiculous the street parking situation is around here. In fact, the biggest complainers about street parking are people who own cars, which is not me.

What does happen is that people show up at community meetings and on forums like this and complain about the lack of free parking. Or they fight over parking spaces in the street, using space savers or other markers. Often they try to squelch growth and development in Boston because they are afraid of competition for their free parking.

I point out that this shortage and this fighting is only inevitable given the inherent problems with giving out street parking for free or under-priced. And then, as you can see, people get upset that their entitlement is being questioned.

Still, I find it useful to point out the ways that people are being selfish and hurting themselves and the community. It's not going to make me popular, but I'm not trying to win a popularity contest.

Here's an idea

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Lots of people use their garages and driveways for other things - like grilling, a deck, etc.

How about a mobile deck the size of a parking space? It would be a good piece of performance art to sit out there with a table, chairs, and grill enjoying the space as a demonstration of how the "taking" of public land by private cars is a privilege for those who own cars not enjoyed by people who don't.


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We'll see how they go soon, hopefully.

Parking space entitlement? Things are not looking good.

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I've been sitting here being entertained by this discussion in which I view the underlying issue of we're entitled to it vs. no you're not.

It was entertaining until I thought about how this does not bode well for the real discussion about entitlements that we are going to be forced to have in the next few years.


You're perfectly welcome to

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You're perfectly welcome to move to a place that doesn't allow street parking.

Personally, I find those places awful, even though I don't have a car.

"If you want land, buy or RENT it."

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Your idea, it sounds vaguely familiar, oh yes, that's right, they're called resident parking stickers.

As for your immovable storage unit, it would get in the way of street cleaning and bicycles. You come off as awfully selfish with this request.

Resident stickers do not solve the commons problem

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As noted by BB from Dot below, resident parking permits do stratify the commons but do not solve the problem within the regions. You could imagine finer grained districts, with a hierarchy or some selection mechanism. The limit of that is, of course, doling out private property rights in a market. Which is the usual solution to commons "tragedies."

I'm sure I could find some arrangement which allowed me to move the storage unit for street cleaning and other space requirements. It's no more selfish than parking a private vehicle in the same space.

P.S. It is the height of hypocrisy for a street-parking-freeloader to accuse anyone else of being selfish.

And how, pray tell, have you

And how, pray tell, have you been injured today by the "commons problem?" Is there any specific activity that was unavailable to you because people park publicly on city streets? If so, would such an activity be considered objectively reasonable, particularly when compared to another person's need to drive/and store his car?

There is no commons problem. Goverments pave roads, build curbs, place signage, install meters, etc. as a means to facilitate driving and parking. That's why we have the infrastructure we have. Elected governments have decided that there's social utility in allowing people to drive and store cars on publicly-maintained space. There's been no usurpation here on the part of motorists.

In fact, the often-ridiculous parking regulations in cities such as Boston and the citations they lead to are huge revenue generators. Do these citations, plus car licensing and parking fees, generate enough to pay for the city's entire infrastructure of roads? Perhaps not, but it's certain that the average motorist contributes far more to the city's infrastructure budget than relative free riders like pedestrians and cyclists do. Car owners support an infrastructure of roads you take advantage of every time you cycle, take a cab, ride a bus, read your mail, or purchase any item delivered to its point-of-sale by truck. I assume you're not suggesting a cityscape consisting solely of pedestrian malls and open green space. I also assume your're not an elitist trying to price working and middle class people out of car ownership because their parking publicly makes the streets look distressingly cluttered or interrupts your recreational pursuits.

There's this straw man circulating about people being under the impression that they've "bought a parking space" by purchasing a resident parking sticker. I'm sure some idiots (space savers) think so, but what you're really buying is a right to park in public spaces, as available, so long as you abide by parking rules. Sunbathing at Logan might not be a great analogy, but purchasing a seasonal pass to a state beach is--your pass gives you the right to go to the beach at specified times of day during a specified period, and your right is subject to the beach being temporarily closed due to weather/surf conditions, etc. Placing a large, immobile storage container curbside is somewhat akin to somebody asking, after seeing people spreading out blankets for an afternoon at a public beach, why he can't build a surfside cabin there. If you wanted to do that, you'd need government permission, and--surprise, surprise--the same holds true for storage containers since I see them temporarily occupying parking spaces, via city-issued permits, all the time.

Lastly, storage containers are in no way analogous to cars. Can you move a storage container on short notice due to a fire or police emergency? Is the city equipped to tow one out of the way if it's blocking a hydrant? Unless you have/the city has a specialized vehicle standing by day and night, the answer is no. There's an expectation that private things occupying public space (on streets or common spaces) are mobile/occupying it temporarily, from hot dog carts to Honda Civics.

We all are injured by it

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Every time someone circles around endlessly for parking, it is because of the commons problem. Every time someone complains about how hard it is to park in Boston, it is because of the commons problem. Every time local residents block growth and development because they are afraid of competition for parking spaces, we all lose. And this topic comes up at nearly every community meeting I attend.

Pumping billions of dollars of subsidies into infrastructure for driving and storing private vehicles only makes sense if you ignore the very real costs of ripping apart the city and pushing urban sprawl.

Because that's what people want

There's no shortage of cars in Boston, and people want a place to put them. I realize you're not in this group, but there are people in the city with desires different than yours, and when enough people want something, sometimes the city has to oblige.
Obviously, you don't like cars and parking. I suggest you write to the mayor and your councilman suggesting that all parking should be removed from Boston's streets. At the least, it will give them a good laugh.
FWIW, as a lowly suburbanite, I think some of your ideas would indeed make Boston a better place to live and visit.

Resident parking in Dorchester

Full disclosure: I know the person who put out the cone and the person who made the complaint, and I can sympathize with both of them. Samoset Street is only a block away from the a Red LIne T station and attracts a lot of commuters. A few years ago the residents got the city to designate it resident-only parking during the day. Problem solved? Not really.

Here's the rub: Dorchester resident stickers are Dorchester wide and Dorchester is a huge chunk of the city. So I could live near Carney Hospital or The First Parish Church or the Franklin Park Zoo and as long as I had a Dorchester sticker I could park on Samoset Street.

Dorchester is also full of three family houses that don't have driveways. If there are two adults in each unit and they all have cars, that's six cars with maybe room to park one car out front (to the people who try to park near where they live in the South End you also have my sympathy).

For the record, we have a driveway, only one car, and I take the T to work.

Thank you

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This illustrates the dilemma posed by free (or nearly so) street parking. It's a classic commons problem. When limited resources can be taken freely, they will quickly be depleted, screwing over everyone else.

Also, if you have a block of triple deckers, and each is associated with six cars, then there will never be enough room on the street to park all those cars. It's basic geometry: there isn't enough room on the curbside.

It all comes back to handing out pieces of the public commons. It just doesn't work. There will always be shortages and fights over spaces if the system remains as it is.

He's just pointing out the

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He's just pointing out the problem. No need to shoot the messenger.

Dorchester has it easy.

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The ratio of parking permits to available street spaces in the downtown neighborhoods is about 5 to 1.

There are alternative solutions: charge fair market value for the stickers, or install meters everywhere, or limit the number of stickers to 120% of the available spaces and give them out by lottery, etc.

Go ahead and come up with one and make it work; if you succeed you'll be a hero and you'll be emulated everywhere.

Ah, parking

I do have a limited amount of sympathy for folks who moved onto a quiet side street 20 years ago and now find themselves unable to park. What limits my sympathy is that they still decided to live in a city and their neighborhood hitting a boom was always a possibility.

What annoys me to no end, however, are the people who move someplace and, apparently, do not look into the parking situation at all. If you need parking, look into what the rules are before you move. If it's absolutely essential to you that you be able to park in front of your house, look for deserted streets or don't live in the city. If you're really worried about parking, rent or buy a space.