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Boston looks to increase parking-meter fees at peak times

Mayor Walsh said this morning that city officials are looking to base how much motorists pay at a meter based on where and when they're parking.

In a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Walsh said these "flexible rates" could dramatically reduce the time motorists spend searching for spaces - which they would do by driving off those unwilling or unable to pay peak rates.

The potential for demand-based parking rates is made possible by the "smart" meters Walsh announced in March the city was buying, at a cost of $6 million. In addition to allowing centrally managed fee changes - at the time, officials said they were loving the idea of charging more for spaces around Fenway Park during Sox games - the new meters will let motorists pay by credit card and could let software developers build find-the-space mobile applications.

Also in his speech, Walsh said some parking enforcement officers will start using data from Waze, which collects traffic data from users, to head to intersections and streets plagued by box-blocking road hogs and double parkers.

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Comments

All excellent ideas. And lets also charge for parking permits. No more free storage on the tax payers dime. Good luck finding even a tiny percentage of the box blockers and double parkers though. They are everywhere.

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Good concepts but lets take it one step at a time. Only takes a good public outcry to ruin the whole pot! :)

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Excellent and let's just raise taxes on everything and everyone: people who rent apartments should pay additional taxes on renting that tiny overpriced studio; people who go to school here should pay a student tax since wealthy universities barely contribute their fair share of taxes for land use; let's add extra fees to groceries since people use roads and sidewalks to get themselves to food stores because sidewalk and road maintenance costs money you food eating puny workers! There's no stopping to how much we can tax the working residents of Boston! Do you live and work here -- well it's going to cost you more and more and more on top of property taxes, everyone's electric bill going up another 20%, and so on and so forth. Let the residents of Boston eat cake!

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It's a quarter. Maybe you should protest the city's exorbitant parking fees by storing your car in a garage and helping out the garage owner, probably a struggling small-businessman.

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We will defend to the death our God-given right to store our private vehicles for free on public property!

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This guy might blow a gasket when he hears about the possible 2% tax on alcohol the City may impose.

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Which is, honestly, completely BS and shouldn't happen.

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And it's so unreasonable that they impose those fees on people who have literally no choice but to drive their cars everywhere they go! Maybe they could justify it if they provided some sort of alternative system of transit. That system would have to be publicly funded and accessible, so we could call it... public transit. Yeah, that's the ticket! If we had some sort of "public transit," then you could leave your car at home and take the train to work, rather than bitching about paying 5% rather than 3% of market rate to park your enormous frigging car on public property, while the rest of us subsidize your long-term storage.

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A lot of people live in Boston and don't have that option because their workplace is outside the reach of the T. I know that doesn't fit with your little snark narrative, but it's still true. Personally, I'd love to live and work in the city, taking the T and not having to deal with 128 every day.

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Renters do pay an additional tax of $1,879.53. How? That's the residential exemption. So, a homeowner gets that much off on their property taxes while a renter's payment to a landlord has to cover the full property tax.

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Renters also get a deduction on their state income tax. Not saying it's fully equivalent, but it is a thing.

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Very complex but almost nobody gets that much in benefit. If you eliminated that provision the tax rate would go down and most would find their taxes would only go up a few hundred dollars. 10-20% of homeowners would actually see their taxes go down if they eliminated this moronic law. It doesnt reduce taxes it just shifts them to other taxpayers and i would and have argued that if they just dropped it homes on the low end would be much more affordable. The tax savings just gets spent on mortgage requiring bigger downpayments and bigger mortgages than if they left the taxes higher.

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If you raise box blocking fines to amounts where people can't just shrug them off anymore AND start enforcing them randomly, people will be afraid to block. This (as well as no turn on red) is MUCH easier than getting speeding ticket revenue, I don't understand why cops don't do it all the time.

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We have a cap on the number of garage spaces downtown, and the result is that parking in a garage is really expensive. Parking at a meter is much, much less expensive, which gives drivers an incentive to drive around looking for a space at a meter. This Boston Magazine article from a few years ago (which is well worth a read, IMO) claims that "as much as 34 percent of all traffic in downtown areas involves drivers just looking for parking spaces." If the meter prices more closely reflect the demand for those spots, it does seem likely that this could reduce congestion and pollution downtown. Let's hope that there are plenty of complementary proposals that will allow better access to downtown without using a car, too - the goal should be to improve transportation into the city, not to limit access to only those who can afford to pay market rate for parking.

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will reduce congestion. People will still need to park, and metered spaces will still be cheaper than off-street garages by a huge amount, and still be far cheaper than taxis or Uber. Unless the increase was truly significant ($5 an hour?) you wouldn't get anyone out of a car and onto the T who wouldn't already be doing that.

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First, I don't really know how to verify or dispute your claim that "you wouldn't get anyone out of a car and onto the T who wouldn't already be doing that," although I guess I partially agree. As I said, I really think this plan will be most effective with some complementary efforts focused on making it easier for people to get into the city via some means other than a car.

That said, I think there are a couple of ways that this could help. First, this kind of policy could redistribute some of the demand for parking spaces. If it is well known that parking on, say, Newbury St. is much more expensive than parking a quarter of a mile away and walking a bit, some drivers will be more inclined to opt for the latter rather than try their luck looking for a closer spot. Also, if parking is more expensive, there will be some incentive to give up a spot sooner. Prices can be adjusted based on data to reach some balance between making sure people have reasonable access to parking and that the city isn't doing too much to encourage everyone to try for the same few spots. I imagine the best way to really understand all of this, though, would be to look at San Francisco's experience with demand pricing, which as I understand it has been considered a success.

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Personally, there's only a certain amount of driving around in circles looking for a meter I'm willing to tolerate before saying 'f this' and turning into a garage. And that amount of time is pretty proportionate to the difference between the cost of the garage and the cost of the meters. More expensive meters (for me) lowers the willingness to drive around (congestion) instead of just grabbing a garage spot.

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Instead of circling endlessly for a cheap spot, they'll admit defeat quicker and pay for a costly spot that is close to their destination. Instead of spending 30 minutes driving around for a spot, they'll spend 10 driving to a garage.

San Francisco has all of this smart parking stuff (smart meters, congestion pricing, spot-and-garage finding apps) and it's very helpful in efficiently filling the gaps in the city's iffy mass transit system.

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A lot of those spots are taken by people who work there and shuffle their cars (hairdressers chief among them). Raise the fees in prime hours and many will opt for a lot or just take the T.

Next up let's figure out a way to get all the people with dead grandma's handicap card hanging in the window and parking for free to gaet their licenses revoked for being a complete @$$ ()! €. There are some blocks I've seen where 1/4 - 1/2 the cars have handicap placards.

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REPEAL the outdated law that allows people with handicap plates/placards to park at a space all day in disregard of the time limits.

It might have made sense in the days before designated handicap spaces became commonplace, but it's now just an outdated dinosaur that only fuels abuse.

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Its a proven concept. Not just in books, but in implementation.

SF combined their program with an app that lets you see the charge on a block by block basis, along with how many empty spaces there were.

I used to live by Kenmore, and it was insane that the lots would charge $30 for the game - but parking at a meter was only $2.

All people had to do was park their ass at 4pm, feed the meter for 2 hours ($2) and they could stay until 2am if their little hearts desired.

Need to park to run into a local business? Not on Sox days you couldnt.

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And there are also no time limits at most meters. But you can find on-street parking even during ball games near AT&T park. It may $7/hour, but at least you can find parking. This encourages people who are going to the game to park in lots, and leaves open street parking for shorter term parkers.

But at off-peak times it drops to either nominal rates (e.g., $0.25/hr) or free.

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And there are also no time limits at most meters.

I'm curious as to where? Every meter I've parked at in Boston has a 2 hour limit and depending upon the area, the meter monsters live up to the name.

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"near AT&T park" -- San Francisco.

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So now we're suggesting that if people need to park to visit a local business, they will be paying Red Sox rates on game nights? That seems unfair.

How about enforcing the 2hr limit on game nights until 8pm or so?

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But if you're stopping by, say for 20 minutes, isn't it better to pay a few bucks to find parking than not find parking at all?

The point is that people parking on the street for the game have to pay ~$30 bucks, which is more than you pay to pull into a lot.

Nothing is going to be perfectly "fair" for everyone. It's not like Sox games are some unpredictable event either, so if you want cheap parking, pick a different night.

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But if you're stopping by, say for 20 minutes, isn't it better to pay a few bucks to find parking than not find parking at all?

Let's suppose you're a resident with several errands to run -- the kind that you need a car for, like grocery shopping. A few bucks here, a few bucks there...

Also, I don't think you can say that this approach will work without doing some analysis of who is using the spaces now. Rich people and tourists in town on an occasional visit won't have a problem paying because it's once in a great while and/or they have plenty of money. If that's the makeup of the current parkers, I don't see this as improving anything -- rather, insofar as it has any effect on local residents, it becomes a form of regressive taxation.

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So take your pick.

There won't be expensive parking all the time, only during events. It's really not that complicated.

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Its better to have the choice to pay for the spot then simply there being no spots at all.

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It must be a long while since you've come into the City for a game. Parking lots start at $40. The meters go until 8 PM.

But yes, everything else I agree with.

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I thought the meters went until 6 p.m. Has this changed? I haven't parked there in awhile.

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http://www.cityofboston.gov/parking/meters.asp

Although I think there are areas that switch over to Resident Parking at 6 PM, so there's that.

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Good to know.

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As I said, i USED to live by Kenmore, and those were the insane parking rules at the time.

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I drive into "the city" a few times a month and never worry that I won't find a street spot. (I have a good handle on where to find parking and obviously I know not to go to Kenmore or North Station during sports events.)

I don't mind paying a bit more for meter parking, but if you make it too expensive - anything over $3 an hour - I just won't come in. How many people are there like me?

(And I HATE the idea of apps to identify open spots. Finding a spot is a time-honed skill that will be about as useful as blacksmithing if any hipster with an iPhone can fire up an app to find all the open spots. )

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Is the entire point of the program.

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That is the whole point of dynamic pricing. If a spot is $5 an hour and no one is using it then the price will go down. On a Saturday afternoon in the Back Bay prices will be high because of demand and businesses won't miss anyone who is too stingy to pay a fair price for parking because they will be plenty busy already. And people who live in the city certainly won't mind having less cars around.

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demand. If you're going at off-peak times, they should keep the rates low. The point is to ensure spot availability so people don't needlessly circle. At off peak times, that may mean $0.25/hour or free parking. During events, it could be $5 or $7/hr.

If done correctly, on an average Wed night, rates should not be high. On game nights, they should be quite high.

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I get the whole dynamic pricing thing and in general I think it's good. However, the city will never charge less than the current rate ($1.25 an hour) even if a whole block is sitting open.

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Are you sure? Other cities have gone lower, even to the point of making a spot free when the demand is low enough. Going free happens in many neighborhoods already that have times of day when you don't need to feed the meter.

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(And I HATE the idea of apps to identify open spots. Finding a spot is a time-honed skill that will be about as useful as blacksmithing if any hipster with an iPhone can fire up an app to find all the open spots. )

Other commenters say that Saturday afternoons in the Back Bay are peak times? I can always (ALWAYS) find a spot within a couple of blocks of my destination on Saturday afternoons. Because I've been practicing for years, and I'm good at it.

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I thought it was legal in Boston, in front of liquor stores.

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No silly that's in bike lanes!

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And pizza places, as long as you are the delivery guy and are just running in for a minute.

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The biggest violators of double parking are those picking up the designer dogs from the mutt groomer across from the police station.

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Walsh said some parking enforcement officers will start using data from Waze, which collects traffic data from users, to head to intersections and streets plagued by box-blocking road hogs and double parkers

Aside from the obvious joke answer of "literally everywhere in Boston", box-blocking and double parking are things that happen all the time at the same places every day. The city already knows where it's happening (and if they don't they're extremely stupid), and if they wanted they could do something about it they easily could, but they haven't and they don't. I don't know if it's lack of resources or lack of caring.

If the city stationed one officer at the Atlantic/Essex intersection next to South Station, they'd be able to write sooooo many box-blocking tickets. You could write several dozen an hour from say 7AM-7PM, every single weekday.

Put one on East Broadway in Southie and you'd do the same with double parking tickets seven days a week. Dot Ave between Savin Hill Ave and the Polish Triangle is often plagued as well.

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This plan will really put the squeeze on people from the outer neighborhoods with crappy access to transit. Right now, if I want to come "in town" for an event at, say, the Old State House, I have the choice between driving and taking public transit. From my closest station, trains come every hour during the week, and less on weekends. Once I'm on a train, it's going to take an hour of travel time on Commuter Rail > Red > Orange, and it will be $17.80 round trip. If I drive, it will take 25 minutes, plus a few minutes to find street parking. You can raise the price of parking a little bit, but at some point you're just punishing people for not living in the rich inner neighborhoods that have good transit and walkability.

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Or you could drive to Alewife for 8$ and a half-hour red-orange.

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You don't say where you're located, but I'm guessing it's metrowest. In your place, I would (and do) drive to Alewife, park in the garage, and take the Red Line. It's $7 to park, and while I wouldn't want to pay it every day (yeah, I brown-bag too), it's not a big deal for a special event. I never rely on finding street parking anywhere in Boston, and particularly not for an event, because everyone else has the same idea.

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With my Hubway membership I can park just about anywhere and then hop a bike to where I really want to go. Just last night I parked near Copley to go to a concert at the Blue Hill Bank Pavillion (Harborlights.) It was a 12 minute ride each way, plus about a 2 minute walk.

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I could drive to Alewife in, oh, an hour or so with no traffic at all. Metrowest? I said "the outer neighborhoods," not "the snooty suburbs." Personally, I live in Hyde Park. The math would be a little bit different for people in Rozzie or Westie because they're Zone 1, but the time and hassle wouldn't be very different.

People forget that many (if not most) residents of this city have little access to rapid transit and rely on slow buses and/or pricey commuter rail.

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The point isn't simply to raise rates. It's to raise rates in locations and at times where there is no availability to encourage turnover. This decreases circling, increases traffic flow, encourage pub trans use, etc. This can be done on a block-by-block basis.

So if you're parking somewhere where there is already ready and available parking, then nothing should change.

If you spend 30 min circling for free or very low cost parking, then I suppose this will disrupt your routine.

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You have more faith in the BTD than I do. I assume that they will greatly raise rates, and then raise them even more when there's high demand.

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But that's not the idea being discussed.

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We live in the city and one of us works in Stoneham. Taking the T costs a hair under $19 round trip. It's cheaper and less time to drive a car.

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The supply of parking spots obviously won't change, so the hope must be to lower demand? Well lots of people have already said it'll still be cheaper then parking in a garage. So ultimately this is just a money grab by the city. I'd have a little more respect for them if they'd just admit it.

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Using prices to change behavior only works if people know the price before they decide. For this to work, Boston had better make an easy "find-parking-prices-near-your-destination" app and maybe some LED signs you can read from your car. If you aren't informed of the price until you go to feed the meter, it's going to be hard to change behavior.

This is part of the problem with cost-sharing in medicine. It's supposed to encourage consumers to shop around, but without easy access to prices, it makes it impossible to do so and people don't bother. On the other hand, people drive all over town to save $0.05/gal on gas because the prices are clear. If you want people to use prices to make a decision, they have to actually know the price.

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