How come Boston doesn't charge for resident parking permits?

Penny Cherubino does some research and finds several other big cities do and wonders:

Would you get rid of one or more cars if you had to pay for a resident parking permit?

Would year-round street sweeping, that would allow public works to clear snow to the curb on street sweeping days, be a good idea?



Free tagging: 


Car owners

By on

Already pay their fair share of taxes and fees. Charge developers for not supplying parking for all new units built.

the city caps private parking

By on

....and it's to discourage people from having cars, because when they have cars, you need space on the roads for them to drive around, and parking for wherever they want to go. We're beyond tight on both, as evidenced by the fact that our public transit bus system has trouble running efficiently, and people, for example, park in bus stops because there are so few spaces available.

It's especially bad since adding lanes doesn't proportionately increase traffic capacity.


You don't even come close to paying for the services that you use. For example, snow plowing and road maintenance are supported by property taxes, regardless of car ownership. Excise taxes don't meet that budget.

Even if MA gas taxes specifically supported roads, they would need to be at least tripled to cover the costs.

Federal taxes support federal highways, regardless of how many cars you own.

Sorry, but driving is expensive and it is rather heavily subsidized. We can debate whether or not that is appropriate, but please don't even pretend that those costs that you list cover the entire cost of our choice to own and use a car.

p.s. Boston used to have 800,000 people and no parking problem. The number of new units built haven't even replaced those removed for "urban renewal". The stress on the parking resource is due to a higher rate of car ownership, not development.

People who don't drive benefit from roads as well

By on

When your house is burning the fire dept drives a big truck to your house and parks out front. Same when you call the cops or the pizza shop. The materials to build furnish and maintain your house are also transported over the roads.

As is all the food at the stores you walk to.

Roads are used for much more than transporting individuals and to argue otherwise is simply BS.

That may be true

However, excessive pressure for free parking everywhere tends to get in the way of emergency vehicles, loading zones, deliveries, bus stops, etc.

Excessive pressure gets in the way?

By on

Really? I've never noticed a shortage of bus stops or loading zones. I've never heard of police or fire not responding in time due to legally parked cars. Can you provide examples or citations please?

You must be blind, then

Boston has trucks sitting in bus stops and cars in bus stops and trucks double parked all over the place because there is a considerable lack of loading zones.

This doesn't happen in other cities to the degree that it seems to in Boston.

I take it you don't know any urban firefighters, either ... ask one how easy it is to get down streets where residential parking demands mean cars are squeezed into roads with very little clearance. Just ask one sometime.

Loading zones take away customer parking

By on

Not residential parking. Why don't you ask merchants if they'd like to have a loading zone or 2 parking spots in front of their shop or restaurant? You should already know the answer. Double-parked trucks!! Oh the horror!!
They unload and move on and customers can still park. Win/win as far as I'm concerned. I've been to many cities and never noticed extra loading zones or less double parked trucks in merchant areas.

I don't need to ask firefighters anything. If it were a safety concern it would be addressed. Hell, they'd probably prefer no one ever use a space heater too but space heaters, by and large are safe and useful. Just like on street parking is.

Where are your examples/ citations of the issues you describe?

Who pays what?

Already pay their fair share of taxes and fees.

OK, so lets say I own a used Geo Metro that is worth $50 that gets 35 miles/gal and I drive it 2,000 miles a year. You own a $100,000 sports car that gets 10 mile/gal and you also drive it 2,000 miles a year. You clearly pay far more in excise and gas taxes even though our cars roughly take up the same amount of roadway and parking space. Should you get a discount on fuel taxes or pay reduced income taxes? Should I pay more in taxes?

This is why you can't consider taxes usage fees -- there isn't any correlation between the amount of usage and taxes. The only solution is to eliminate the taxes entirely or create a fee which are directly ties to what service gets used.

Hell no

I don't have skin in this game, but for Chrissakes, Bostonians pay enough in taxes as it is. Just stop it already.


By on

Because if you google "state taxes comparison" or "rank state taxes", you'll see Massachusetts is middle of the road to slightly-higher-than-the-average, depending on whose ranking critera.

The whole "Taxachusetts" thing is a bunch of BS.

The whole "Taxachusetts" thing is a bunch of BS.

OK, so let's try to keep it that way.
Just try to set up a parking permit system. First, let's exempt all the elderly (over 65). Then, let's exempt all the AARP elderly (50??). Then the students of Boston parents (Insert 'beleaguered' here(sp?)). Ok, now veterans (I'll go for that, but still...).
Then electric vehicles (No pollution!!!)
Forget it.


I'm not renting a thing. I use it, but I have no issued license from the city to that area. Anyone can use it. Space savers are representational of the effort by someone to shovel out a particular space. If I have to pay for parking, will they guarantee me parking? A nominal fee to cover sticker cost is one thing, but anything more is like issuing taxi licenses, on a smaller scale. If I pay more for it, can I sell it on Ebay?

No it's not

I pay 5.25% in income tax plus the health insurance penalty.

It's not a race to the bottom. "Other states have higher taxes" is not an excuse.

Permits are not taxes

By on

A parking permit is not a tax any more than a subway fare is not a tax. It is more expensive to ride the bus once a year than park in Boston for a year. It costs $50 for a permit to have your wedding photos in a Boston park for one time slot one day, but its free to park on the street all year?


By on

Bostonian here. My property taxes are 1/6th of what my relatives pay out in the suburbs. I'd happily pay a couple bucks a year for resident permit.

dear god

are you really suggesting a new way for the city to make money? we do have that excise tax and all. I could maybe understand charging an address that has two or more cars as a way of trying to reduce the number of cars. But I know if you start charging for a resident parking permit, it will only increase over time. Soon you will have arguments that neighborhoods with a large number of permits start charging more to reduce the number of cars, and then the fee will increase again.

excise tax?

By on

Yeah, except for all the people like Swirrrly who cheat on their excise taxes by registering their cars illegally out-of-state, and thus are using services and roads they're not paying for.

Resident parking sticker fees would make it impossible to cheat the system this way, and charging students more would be one way the city could recoup the enormous cost of supporting a HUGE segment of the city population that a)doesn't pay a dime in taxes (nor do their universities) b)uses a highly disproportionate amount of city services (EMS, Police) when they cause or get into trouble.

I just paid a large excise tax bill

Just as I have paid excise tax in MA for the 25 years that I have been a permanent resident.

I also paid MA sales tax on that same vehicle last year.

The car I had as a student while I was not a permanent resident would never have cost more than $10 for MA excise tax, anyway.

College students pay sales taxes.....

Ad MIT grads staying in Boston probably do more for the local economy than 90%+ of other Boston residents do. Colleges and their students help the Boston economy, and I don't think there is really much of an argument on that one.

There is an argument, Pete

By on

Everyone pays sales taxes. But a lot of students live in housing that is tax-exempt. I also pay income, excise and property taxes.

More to the point, I do not think that MIT graduates are the "ten percent" that drives the Boston economy, while the rest of us are proles contributing nothing.

Universities are like casinos. People want all the alleged benefits, until a casino decides it wants to set up shop in their town. Then it is a different story.

My neighborhood (Brighton) was a far more pleasant place to live when it was full of families.

You realize that you don't make any sense here

By on

You complain about tax-exempt housing for students, yet you also complain about students moving into housing that is not tax-exempt.

If the universities weren't there, you'd complain about those properties being blighted because there weren't any good jobs around, I bet.

Should tow if not moved after 72 hours

By on

I'd be in favor of the resident parking fee only if it somehow reduced taxes or fees elsewhere but under the "use it or lose it" budgeting philosophy of MA local and state government, I'm confident they'd just waste the new money on something else. That said, the widely accepted definition of an abandoned vehicle under state law is one that hasn't moved in 72 hours. These should be ticketed and towed, especially the ones that are snow covered weeks after a storm.

72 hours??

By on

What if you take the T to work during the week and only drive on weekends? There were times when my car stayed parked in front of my house for a week without moving. It's residential parking in Roslindale; no driveway, spaces plentiful as long as commuters don't take them.


By on

I walk to work and therefore don't move my car every 72 hours. Go ahead and try to tow it.

Re: Wrong

By on

I've had parked cars towed after the 72nd hour and no doubt some of their owners were bigger, with longer criminal histories than you, Matthew C. Not that I went looking for said cars but when they're parked in front of someone else's house for days without moving, the complaints usually come in. Go ahead and punch the cop or whatever you're suggesting you'd do to stop the tow. See how that works out for you. The suggestion that a mere resident parking sticker is enough to legally leave a car on the street without moving for 364 days, 23.5 hours, using the other half-hour to get an inspection sticker (to avoid a parking ticket for expired inspection sticker) is preposterous.


By on

Just like a cop to exaggerate the truth and bully the guy who's just tryin to make a point! WTH is wrong with parking in front of someone else's house for any number of hours? The neighbor who gets upset for such trivial nonsense should be taxed and towed! ONLY if a car is obviously abandoned or obstructing traffic flow should anyone start to ask questions. RUN THE PLATE, genius...that's what it's supposed to be used for (not checking out/up on ppl for personal reasons!) If the registration is local then you move along and tell the complaining neighbor to stop making nuisance calls!

Year round street cleaning

By on

Year round street cleaning (sweeping+plowing) and charging a market rate for on street parking permits to balance out the supply to demand is common sense.

sounds like a great idea

By on

The money can go to paying off the Big Dig debt.

You know, that highway project that principally benefited car drivers, which they don't pay a dime for, because the debt was completely transferred onto the ledgers of the public transit system, which has since struggled to keep basic services running under BILLIONS in debt that have nothing to do with their system or operations?

Stop countering rhetoric with

By on

Stop countering rhetoric with facts! How are we supposed to get everyone angry about this stuff if we have to cite our sources?

Can't have their cake and eat it too.

If the city tried to make people pay excise tax AND parking fees, in a town where the cost of everything is already beyond unreasonable (including parking said car whenever you actually take it anywhere), I'd gladly lead the pitchfork-wielding mob to city hall.

Personally, I have a car mostly for travel OUTSIDE of Boston, and because after nearly getting rid of it, I determined the cost of ownership was cheaper than what rentals, train tickets, and zipcar would cost me per year with the amount of trips I take back home to see family in NY each year and random surfing and snowboarding trips around New England (plus it makes owning a surfboard more viable and saves a ton on rentals).

I pay my fair share of excise tax and gas taxes, as well as tolls and meter fees when I
DO drive in the city, I shouldn't have to pay to keep my car parked near my apartment as well.

I pay for milk and eggs. Even

By on

I pay for milk and eggs. Even though I RARELY eat bread, I like to have it around, and I am ENTITLED to have it for free because I already payed for other things I use.

Pretty clever

Really put what I said into perspective. Except for the part where I said I already pay my excise tax for my car.

Its criminal that it doesnt.

By on

Its criminal that it doesnt.

At the absolute very minimum, the fee should cover the cost of running the program. And that includes enforcement. Stickers arent free. The people who issue them dont work for free. The cops that check that the spaces arent being used by other people arent free.

Even at $50 a year, thats under 14 cents a day for prime real estate.

I would do $50 for first car, $100 for second, $150 for third, and $200 for each additional car.

The General Problem

By on

You've hit on the general solution, but you aren't taking it far enough. The first sticker for a residential unit should be free. The second sticker should cost 700 gazillion billion dollars.

Suldog (who used to live in Dorchester when each family had ONE car, if they had a car AT ALL, and there was never a problem with parking until people somehow decided that every freakin' family member 'needed' a car.)

Your talking about the days

By on

Your talking about the days when housing units were occupied by one family and one car would be all that was needed. What about now, since someone at some point in time got the idea to turn three deckers in Dorchester, Southie, into "luxury condos" where instead of having one family you have three or four unrelated young professionals sharing a unit. Each of them would most likely need there own car. Which of the would get the free permit and which of the others would have to pay the "gazillian billion" dollars?


By on

I think you misunderstand. When I say "each residential unit" I mean each place where rent is paid or whatever. For a triple decker that would mean three permits.

Anyway, the point wasn't to really charge someone a billion gazillion dollars. That was just facetious. The idea is to not hand out so many more permits than there are parking spaces.


Back then, buses and trolleys

By on

Back then, buses and trolleys ran more often.

You wouldn't have the situation of being an hour late to work because the subway was 10 minutes late and you missed your connecting bus, which is what happened to me this morning.

Working in the suburbs

By on

I have a car (albeit a small in size one so I can fit into small parking spaces in my cramped neighborhood) and live within Boston. I'd like to not have a car but my job is in the suburbs and not really accessible by public transit unless I want to turn a 25 minute drive into an hour and a half commute with various transfers. All of our competitors are also in various suburbs, so even if I wanted to leave my job, I'd still need to drive.

All that being said, I think part of the problem that is very rarely discussed here, is that a lot of jobs are moving into the suburbs and public transit options are obviously not keeping up with this trend. As much as I and my city-dwelling coworkers try to start the discussion, my company has no desire to move into the city because "think of those who would have to drive in each day!"

I'd love to take the T each day and not pay car payments and insurance and gas etc, but it's just not a reality given my job's location. On the other hand, it's not a reality for me to move to my office park suburb, because I might just die of boredom out there. I therefore knowingly contribute to the parking problem in the city as a result even though I wish I could avoid it.

More resident-only parking is needed

By on

My neighborhood has no parking restrictions. One day I called the city about a car which had been parked for a month on my street. They told me there was no law against it and, unless the car had expired registration, nothing could be done about it.

Many cars come to my neighborhood in Allston and park free for weeks - this seems quite unfair to me.

I decided the only thing I could try to do was advocate how to switch my street to resident parking permit. I contacted Citizen Connect after the city's call line automation had no options for me to press for this. Citizen Connect claims that someone for the Allston Neighborhood association contacts me. I really hope this happens.

Right now in front of my house there are 3 out-of-state cars parked and I am parked on another street a few blocks away. That is not right.

People can petition the city

By on

People can petition the city to change over to resident parking, I wouldnt bother with Citizens Connect, that thing is pretty useless except as a way to vent. Contact your city councilor.

It sounds like you're

By on

It sounds like you're advocating time limits of a few days.

Is it fair when resident cars are parked for weeks at a time, and people visiting someone in the neighborhood have to park blocks away?

How about when there are resident permit restrictions, and people visiting someone have to park blocks away despite plenty of empty spaces they're not allowed to use?

All of the money from permits

By on

All of the money from permits in Cambridge goes to improvements for walking and bicycling. It raises somewhere on the order of $500k per year, which is a decent chunk of change, at least when it's directed in that manner.

One reason for resident stickers

By on

The programs were started back when Kevin White was mayor. The first ones were in the downtown neighborhoods - Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and grew from there. It was a way to deal with commuters taking up all the spots. It later expanded to other neighborhoods. Various parts of Allston and Brighton used to be flooded by Brookline and Newton residents avoiding their towns' restrictions (Brookline: no overnight parking ever, Newton bans it from 11/15 to 4/1.) It also eliminated all the out of state student cars that would stay in the same spot months at a time.

The more taxes the better

By on

Having more taxes (registration, motor excise, fuel excise, resident parking) is better than having just-one tax. When you spread taxes out, taxes become harder to avoid, and generally more fair to everyone. When you rely too much on just one type of tax (like New Hampshire's property tax, or the federal government's personal income tax), then the burden tends to get spread out unevenly with too many loopholes.

Charging a couple hundred dollars for a resident parking permit (more in Zone 1, less outside Zone 1) would be reasonable and would do a lot to recover the real costs of free parking in Boston, and reduce the incredible demand for spaces which are in short supply. While we're at it, how about doubling the cost of parking meters? And how about doubling the $40 fine for street sweeping, and using the proceeds to clean under ticketed cars with a leafblower, instead of authorizing the cars be towed away by a private tow company (usually done after the sweeper is long gone) for a $130+ ransom?