Hey, there! Log in / Register

Might be time for motorists to pay a toll to drive into downtown Boston at rush hour, councilor says

The Boston City Council tomorrow considers whether to let Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury) start up some formal consideration of a proposal for "congestion pricing" as a way to ease gridlock on Boston roads caused by narrowing car access because of bicycle and bus lanes - and maybe even provide enough revenue to help improve public transit.

Anderson will ask the council to assign her proposal to a council committee for a public hearing and drafting of a possible ordinance or home-rule petition to begin charging people who drive along designated roads at particular times in the city.

In her hearing request, she notes New York City and New Jersey are considering rush-hour pricing, which is already used in some European cities

A set fee placed on drivers of various vehicles could bring money and resources toward other elements of the community, reduce traffic, increase transit use and improve air quality, creating environmentally and eco-friendly solutions, as well as functioning as a tangible solution for those feeling preyed upon and thinking that the city is not hearing their feedback.

She writes Boston's infamous traffic woes have only been exacerbated by bike and bus lanes:

Numerous constituents have voiced concerns over the narrowing of streets, due to added bus and bike lanes as well as the rise in vehicular traffic. n Furthermore, the placement of buses in the center of streets exacerbates traffic by restricting space for cars and trucks to maneuver effectively. Narrow and congested streets pose challenges for emergency ambulances navigating already congested areas.

The council's regular Wednesday meeting begins at noon, in its fifth-floor chambers at City Hall.

Neighborhoods: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Complete hearing request94.12 KB


Ad:


Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Narrow and congested streets pose challenges for emergency ambulances navigating already congested areas.

Lets not forget, congestion caused by motor vehicle traffic that blocks emergency vehicles has existed long before the bus and bike lanes were installed.

up
Voting closed 8

... The ambulances could use them too.

up
Voting closed 9

Ambulance using the two way bike lane to bypass motor vehicle traffic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF8u7_Tiqzo

(its labeled as dangerous but I do disagree, it can be used safely in emergencies as shown here)

up
Voting closed 7

Whoever designed the bike lanes in the south end is crazy! I for one wouldnt ride my bike in that space, with tall posts on one side of me and a curb on the other. It's sad, because they ripped up the streets for years to make this monstrosity in an historical neighborhood.

up
Voting closed 6

Something else was ripped up from the streets and replaced with monstrosities that we see today in that historical neighborhood.

(In my opinion, to be fair!)

up
Voting closed 7

Or even a parking lot. Practice with it until your skills improve, and the lane won't bother you so much.

up
Voting closed 5

DTX Mall and equally empty Faneuil Mall.

up
Voting closed 7

Be honest, thanks!

up
Voting closed 10

And you?

up
Voting closed 7

Wouldn't describe either area as dead or failed but hey, to each their own!

Lotta people at North Station last night for the Beanpot too. Is that another failed location that no ones going to?

up
Voting closed 9

About 10-11:00 am or 2-3:00 pm or after 7:00 most evenings.

No problem landing a small plane at dtx.

up
Voting closed 7

How often have you been observing activity during those hours?

On that same line of reasoning, you could land a small plane on the Pike in Allston around some of those times, certainly late at night, no?

Dodged my question about North Station though, obviously you weren't in net for the Huskies last night.

up
Voting closed 7

Of times I was there.Don't go to Faneuil mall much. No reason to go. But I do go by it.

You are right though. I was not in net for northeastern. Good guess.

up
Voting closed 7

Small sample size, you don't go there much but you go there enough to draw those conclusions that its dead.

What about North Station?

Thanks!

up
Voting closed 10

Numerous constituents have voiced concerns over the narrowing of streets, due to added bus and bike lanes as well as the rise in vehicular traffic. n Furthermore, the placement of buses in the center of streets exacerbates traffic by restricting space for cars and trucks to maneuver effectively. Narrow and congested streets pose challenges for emergency ambulances navigating already congested areas.

This is just … not a thing. Traffic is caused by bottlenecks, not because there isn't enough pavement. Citation: the Harvard Bridge was reduced from 4 to 2 lanes and … traffic didn't get any worse, because the traffic there isn't caused by the number of lanes but upstream and downstream constricted areas.

There are vibes and there are data, this is vibes. Come on.

(Bus lanes and bike lanes also move way more people per linear foot, so are far more efficient.)

I'm all for congestion pricing, there are some relatively easy ways to do it:

1) Toll 93 the same way that you toll the Harbor bridges and tunnels and Turnpike. Why should how much it costs to drive depend on what direction you approach the city from? Especially since we charge more for people from Massachusetts on the Pike, while 93, especially from the north, is populated with a lot of Granite Staters freeloading off our economy so they can save money on taxes and not wear their seatbelts.
2) More focused: tax downtown parking like every other city in the country. This mostly hits people driving in on weekdays.
3) Since tolls are all electronic, you could put gantries in a few other areas (i.e. river crossings of the Charles and Neponset) and then sort of say "if you pay one toll you get one free." So if you pay a toll on the Pike we won't hit you again if you get off in Allston, cross into Cambridge, and come back across the BU Bridge. Or have several gantries along 93, if you hit any of them, you pay a toll, but if you hit more than one, it's the same toll; this keeps people from trying to get off the highway to skip the toll.

maybe even provide enough revenue to help improve public transit

I mean, yeah. There are about 175,000 daily vehicles on the Southeast Expressway and a similar number on 93 north of the city. 350,000 vehicle each paying a toll equal to what Turnpike and Harbor travelers pay ($1.25) generates $160 million per year (more, probably, assuming that trucks pay more; also, tolls should probably go up with inflation). Not everything the T needs, but not a drop in the bucket.

But, oh, noes! The poor people driving to work can't afford this!

$2.50 is 10 minutes of work at minimum wage (and if you're making minimum wage, you're probably paying minimal tax with the EITC). For most people who "need" to drive to work, wages are significantly higher. Funding better transit which will provide more time-competitive transit for those who don't "need" to drive will improve conditions for everyone. People driving are wealthier than people on transit, this is not regressive, don't @ me.

up
Voting closed 5

For some reason people always forget that cars have multiple seats, a $2.50 toll is even less when you find some other people going into the city and split it 5 ways.

up
Voting closed 6

Has that worked?

up
Voting closed 5

.

up
Voting closed 6

If you're going to complain about the cost of tolls without actually taking the obvious measures to alleviate those costs, well...

up
Voting closed 7

Just to clarify one point, New York City is not "considering" congestion pricing. It is a done deal, it is approved at every level, it is happening. It's being held up right now by a succession of frivolous pandering lawsuits (glares at the entire state of New Jersey) but every level of government that needs to approve it has done so. They're currently saying to expect a launch in June but who knows:

https://www.crainsnewyork.com/transportation/nyc-congestion-pricing-plan...

up
Voting closed 8

I can afford it.

Less traffic for me to be caught in. Win win.

I appreciate the monster raving imbecilic Ho Chi Minh supporter doing this. Makes driving to work faster and thereby saves me money.

up
Voting closed 10

That is a potential logical conclusion of this plan. The wealthy will benefit from less traffic while other will be taxed to travel to Boston.

It is bascially a tax on travel.

up
Voting closed 7

but if these fees are used to fix the T (ok I can dream), we would have a functioning transit system with great headways and went everywhere that would backfill the need for the lower and middle classes to drive into the city.

up
Voting closed 8

Why is the city keeping bicycle lanes that no one rides in? The bike lane running through the Back Bay on Beacon Street has zero bikes most days of the week. Not just a few. Zero.

up
Voting closed 6

It’s invaluable to me for getting to and from work. I ride year-round and it keeps me safe. I already pay gas tax, excise tax, and registration fees for my car, and I pay my city taxes as a resident, so I think that I deserve some space on a public road, just like you. Of course, I could always just drive and double-park on Beacon, but you probably wouldn’t like that either.

Funny how you say nobody uses it. When I’m on my bike, I’m consistently not the only one using the bike lane.

Since so many people want to park their cars on Beacon, perhaps we should remove another car lane and make it a parking zone!

up
Voting closed 8

"as a way to ease gridlock on Boston roads caused by narrowing car access because of bicycle and bus lanes"

Bus, Bike lane, congestion pricing.

Better get the Clown Heads ready 'cause no one will be downtown.

up
Voting closed 7

  1. You cannot possibly know that there are zero users. The minute you claimed to have 24/7 knowledge of everything happening on that street is the moment you lost the right to be taken seriously.
  2. People do ride on it, quite a bit, just not so many that it is congested. Most drivers only notice bike riders where there is congestion, particularly if the lane is somewhat separated from traffic, as is the case on Beacon St.
  3. The extent to which it might be underutilized is in large part due to the extremely poor surface paving conditions. It is riddled with potholes, which are a far greater risk for bike riders than they present to car users.
  4. If we want to go with anecdotal observation, Beacon St. never appears congested to me, so probably cars don't need as many lanes as we've given to them.
up
Voting closed 6

Thanks.

up
Voting closed 11

Riding in has been so liberating. I love passing all of the traffic congestion and not only experiencing no stress on my commute, but actually reducing my overall stress by getting a free workout on my way in and out of work. I spend about 50$/month on gas (93 octane to boot) and can take the T if roads are really bad.

What I would say is that having centralized corridors for biking (Somerville does this) that eliminate unnecessary/underused bike lanes while fortifying central corridors with some lane sharing options on side streets branching out, might be a better solution.

You also have to remember: A) it's winter time, get back to me about utilization in May. B) we're only a few years into there even being better bike infrastructure. It takes time for people en masse to adapt to stuff like this. I do think that more and more people are realizing that bicycling into the city is far superior to commuting. With E-Bikes becoming more widely available, that's only going to increase.

Our planet is fucking dying, and Americans are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. I'm a public health social worker and I see all sorts of reasons why people experience stress. Road rage is a big one, and with folks spending 100$/week to fill up their unnecessarily large, resource depleting luxury sports utility vehicles that block the road for others, and are pretty damned cumbersome to drive in a congested city, it's pretty easy to see the ways that stuff like that feeds stress little by little every day.

I'd support congestion pricing with an added cost for large non-commercial vehicles as they contribute even more to wear and tear of our infrastructure, are far more polluting, and generally suck to be around.

up
Voting closed 9

So they keep dying.

up
Voting closed 7

Very disturbing that you "don't see" cyclists.

You are either parroting some carbrained talking points OR you need a vision check.

Plenty to see here: https://mhd.ms2soft.com/tdms.ui/nmds/dashboard?loc=mhd

up
Voting closed 4

Let's make the back bay and downtown open to busses, taxis and ride shares only!

up
Voting closed 7

full time drivers pay for livery plates.

up
Voting closed 6

If you want people to stop driving, then you need to have a healthy MBTA (including commuter rail). People need to get into the city, and if you don't want them to drive, you need to give them reliable alternatives.

up
Voting closed 7

"People need to get into the city"

I think that "People" are showing they don't need to to get into the city.

This proposal will kill downtown.

up
Voting closed 6

Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded.

up
Voting closed 6

.

up
Voting closed 6

Guess you are ok with that and the enormous revenue drain that Boston faces.

up
Voting closed 6

Could you cite that?

What factors do you think caused that?

up
Voting closed 7

https://www.boston.gov/departments/budget/fy24-local-revenue

Local revenue includes revenue from excise taxes, payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, licenses and permits, fees and fines, investment income, and available funds. The City collected $549.1 million in FY22, a 28.9% increase from FY21. In FY23, $451.0 million is budgeted for these sources. For FY24, the City is budgeting $624.9 million, anticipating that the local economy, and economically-sensitive revenue sources with it, will build on the current strength of the post-pandemic recovery.

up
Voting closed 5

FY23 local revenue was down by over 25% from FY19, and that's just in nominal dollars, not accounting for the impact of inflation. Not just that, but close to 10% ($40 million) of the FY23 "local revenue" was ARPA money from the Feds.

up
Voting closed 4

Are those numbers enormous? I dunno, I'm not an economist.

OP saying there is an almost 40% drop in activity in DTX, didn't cite anything. Said there is an enormous drop in revenue. Is there? Help me out here.

up
Voting closed 5

Manhattan can do this because it is an island and there are a fixed number of entry points. Are they going to put tolls on all roads that lead into Boston, or just the highways?

Could I get on at RT9 in Newton / Natick and the back roads of Dorchester to get into Boston from the West or South?

Is this for downtown or all of Boston proper? Is this to be applied to non Boston residents or all residents? How would the system know, unless they will track every car that enters Boston either through license plate readers or toll booths? What about the privacy implications of tracking all cars all the time (more so than they are already tracked).

up
Voting closed 4

there was political will to do it. It is most certainly not an island.

All the questions you raised have been dealt with before in other cities. These are good questions that can be answered by a careful system design, these are not reasons NOT to do congestion pricing.

up
Voting closed 6

Good place to start on some potential answers to your questions, not all though to be fair!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge

There is plenty of time to hash out those details, get public feedback and develop something thats equitable for all. Some won't like it but we need to do something about traffic congestion.

up
Voting closed 6

It's called a real transit system.

Trains that have 4 minute max headways and crap like that.

That may have to be dealt with here first.

up
Voting closed 7

Not a point OP brought up but I appreciate the respectful manner that you've introduced it with.

The T, well thats a bigger debate and issue with Beacon Hill's lack of meaningful legislation and decades of poor funding/management at the T. I see a City making plans to enact something soon, like the Bus Lanes, to address traffic and public transit.

My concern is the pleas to deal with the T first are in bad faith because thats not getting fixed anytime soon.

up
Voting closed 6

Been commuting into Boston for over 20 years, after 10 years of taking the T into Boston, 8 years ago I started driving. Not only was it faster, it was cheaper, and a much more enjoyable ride.

The cost of parking at the T along with the cost of monthly pass was more expensive than driving in and parking (paid monthly parking though work). Most importantly it saved me 45 minutes door to door on the commute. It had the added plus of not being crammed in a hotbox of a subway car or commuter rail train.

The T needs to be better, like Paris, before you can fully embrace the car free roads.

(Lets be real, many here are pushing for this because they are anti car in general, in favor of bikes or public transit).

up
Voting closed 7

You got yours. A faster, cheaper and more enjoyable commute.

up
Voting closed 5

To make parking more expensive in the city for businesses.

up
Voting closed 5

I'm lucky to not have to go into the office every day. When I do, I commute in with my wife (her employer subsidizes parking) and bike from Cambridge to the Seaport. If I wanted to park at my office, it's either $30 a day or $450 a month, which I find ridiculous enough that I'm completely unwilling to drive separately if I can avoid it.

up
Voting closed 4

Quick - someone email the governor!

And also some people might decide not to drive into the city, there is traffic on 93 18 hours a day now and it's likely going to get worse.

I support this tax, I am happy to pay it since I live in the city and drive to work through bad traffic through neighborhoods 2-3 days a week ( I avoid 93). I would prefer to take the train. But the commuter rail near me only runs 1x per hour so I drive since it allows me flexibility and don't have to walk when it's cold. And I am also paying for car maintenance from all the bumps :(

There are plenty of people that make alotta money and commute into the city that can afford to pay more to drive into the city to make their money especially if they could encounter less congestion due to reduced demand due to a congestion tax . The question is would it reduce locals going into the city at night or on the weekend for non work related activities?

up
Voting closed 9

"Plenty of others would be happy to pay more to go into the city."

Experience has shown otherwise but continue to enjoy your delusions.

up
Voting closed 5

Plenty of others would be happy to pay more to go into the city.

Given that people are paying $30 or $40 per day to park downtown, this seems to be the case!

up
Voting closed 7

They're more correlated with what the City charges for parking fines.

up
Voting closed 4

because they have to compete with free or cheap metered parking from the city. Put all that parking at what it's actually worth, and watch the parking rates rise all over...

up
Voting closed 6

1. You missed my point. As long as there are better alternatives, faster, cheaper, and less crowded people will migrate to those if they are able. The T needs to offer these alternatives.

2. It would be a mistake to tie T funding to this tax. A common tax fallacy is to tie future funding to anticipated tax revenue. A tax is somthing you want people to do less of, in this case drive into Boston. Often its projections are greater than intake.

3. I dont really have a dog in this fight on a daily basis, since COVID my job is outside the city. I am simply skeptical of any massive transit program by the same Gov that brought us the current state of public transit.

up
Voting closed 6

. "You missed my point. As long as there are better alternatives, faster, cheaper, and less crowded people will migrate to those if they are able. The T needs to offer these alternatives."

I agree, what are the available alternatives?

And until the T is fully funded boston traffic will continue to get wose sadly.

And people would pay the added congestion tax , but not be happy about the cost but be happy about the outcome.

up
Voting closed 6

You got yours, so nothing should change.

up
Voting closed 4

As long as there are better alternatives, faster, cheaper, and less crowded people will migrate to those if they are able. The T needs to offer these alternatives.

Or, we make alternatives to the T more expensive, to better account for the added external costs they're imposing on the city (traffic, noise, emissions, increased danger to others), which also gives us additional resources that can be used to improve the T. It's a great cycle!

up
Voting closed 5

Free public transit subsidized by road use tolls and progressive taxes for higher income brackets would be a good way to accomplish this. Hell, even a flat tax with tighter restriction on tax-avoidant behaviors that the top 10% love to exploit, could easily remedy this and allow for modern transit.

As more unionization is occurring across multiple industries (we're unionizing at my health center at this time) a good thing to push for is transit coverage for employees that are required to be on-site.

up
Voting closed 6

progressive taxes for higher income brackets

Isn’t that what the millionaire tax is that just went into effect?

flat tax with tighter restriction on tax-avoidant behaviors that the top 10% love to exploit

How do you avoid taxes with a flat tax? Answer is that you can’t.

up
Voting closed 6

This can be done with plate readers at large number of places that charge you once per day of driving in the city. But then of course there will be a privacy issue.

up
Voting closed 4

The City can "consider" congestion pricing all it wants. But the City doesn't control the major roads into it and the City can't even get the State to fix the fucking MBTA in any meaningful way, so what hope would there be that the City can force the State to do anything it would conclude about congestion pricing?

This worked for London because 1) London is 8-10x larger than Boston and they only implemented it in "central London" (a ring of roads about the size of Allston/Brighton but with zero major roadways going in or out of it) and 2) they have Transport for London (TfL) which is a transport agency essentially run by the mayor.

And to add to our complications, "central Boston" would butt up against something like 3 or 4 other cities that would all have something to say too, I'm sure.

A for effort, but you don't need a 3-year multi-million dollar consultancy study to know that congestion pricing is never going to happen here any time in the near future without significant structural changes to how the City manages its public transit (it doesn't currently) and how the City controls the land and roads within and near it (it doesn't currently).

up
Voting closed 6

Is that Boston is less important in Mass. than NYC is in N.Y. Boston is maybe 10% of the population of MA. NYC is ~45% of the population of N.Y. State, so the legislators from the City are going to have so much more pull in Albany than the Boston delegation has on Beacon Hill.

The number of members of the General Court from the various suburbs with constituents who drive into Boston is much, much higher than those whose constituents might be fed up with congestion on Boston city streets. And those suburban members will obviously argue that Boston's congestion has been caused by the City's own policies (i.e. bike/bus lanes) so it's the City's job to resolve the problem, rather than asking suburban residents to cough up more money to drive into Boston.

And no doubt every councilor will argue the residents of her/his neighborhood should be exempt from paying the congestion fee because reasons.

So yeah, good luck with that.

up
Voting closed 5

And is a resource drain on the city. The upkeep of roads outside of your urban centers are incredibly high compared to population density, and farther suburbs contribute very little to the overall taxbase of the state. Without Boston, there would be no industry to support most of the people living suburbs/exurbs. You can't take that out of the equation.

There's a good youtube channel that explores these things - take a few minutes to watch this and some of their other videos to get a better understanding of how this stuff plays out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MjjHKIlKko

...or don't - it's your choice to remain ignorant. Up to you.

up
Voting closed 4

suburbs contribute very little to the overall taxbase of the state

Got a cite for that? I don't have the numbers myself, but it's definitely not true in New York state, or even more so Connecticut, where the big money lives in the suburbs while the money is made in the city.

up
Voting closed 6

Weston, Concord, Lexington, Newton, etc all contribute massive amounts of tax dollars for the state. Weston’s average household income is over $350k!

up
Voting closed 7

I responded to the above commenter and my answer to your question is in that comment.

up
Voting closed 5

So, you maybe correct - I actually don't know how much towns bring in vs. the city.

I did find this site which lists revenue by source, but to be honest, I"m not the best person to actually look at this stuff and understand how it works. Maybe someone else can? I would be interested to know.

https://dlsgateway.dor.state.ma.us/reports/rdPage.aspx?rdReport=RevenueB...

What I based my statement on was a few things:

1) Maintenance of infrastructure per capita - concentrated areas have more people living in them whose contributions to that area support a smaller amount of stuff like roads, electrical grid, water, sewer, etc. Roads in particular have a creeping debt issue where they cost very little over the first 25 years of existence and then suddenly balloon in cost. This leads to increasing burdens on states to divert concentrated income from cities to support the roads in outlying communities.

https://youtu.be/VVUeqxXwCA0?si=P7n44JjfERKUV-Sa does a good job of examining this.

2) While you might have significant income tax income from suburbs, how much are they contributing via sales tax or corporate tax. I imagine Waltham or Burlington contribute fair amount of commercial tax income, but I don't know how much industry Weston or Lincoln has.

https://youtu.be/7IsMeKl-Sv0?si=VhxHMJGmm7lNqoVG Explores how much suburbanization ends up costing more and more money long term.

up
Voting closed 5

The proposal deserves debate, but if certain other city councilors proposed this, Anderson would have denounced it was unjust for her constituents.

up
Voting closed 6

I've worked in Roxbury/Dorchester as a social worker for a long time and you'd be surprised to know how many residents have barely left the city limits. Maybe they've travelled out of state a few times, but the folks she represents are not commuting into and out of the city on 93 or 90 on a regular basis, they're walking, driving locally, or mostly likely taking the T.

There's a reason she is who is actually bringing this up.

up
Voting closed 4

It really sounds like she is advocating on behalf of her driving constituents, almost a backhanded way of criticizing the new bus and bike infrastructure.

They'll be a meeting. She'll say things, so her whole logic behind the move will come out.

Honestly, if a proposal like this comes in, it will probably be for a limited area that won't be near her district, meaning the congestion they see on an everyday basis will remain, if not get worse.

up
Voting closed 4

Are not in the downtown core, except for maybe the one on Essex -- and that one isn't that new. As a pedestrian, I find the new configuration of Columbus between Jackson Sq. and Seaver St. to be a bit terrifying because the cars speed along right next to the curb.

Congestion pricing downtown isn't going to fix any congestion caused by bus/bike lanes in Dorchester or Roxbury or JP.

up
Voting closed 6