Boston Has a Parking Pricing Problem

Patrick Doyle makes a persuasive argument for alleviating Boston's parking problems by raising the rates at the city's overly cheap parking meters.
November 9, 2012, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Beginning in the late 1970s Boston froze the number of off-street parking spaces in several downtown neighborhoods to comply with the Clean Air Act. Sounds like a good idea right? Unfortunately, the cap has created the second-most-expensive parking garages in America, while rates at parking meters have barely budged over the last two decades, resulting in a mad scramble for street spots.  

"The steep costs at our garages mean that only the well-off and the truly desperate ever wind up parking in them," explains Doyle. "The rest of us find ourselves in a never-ending chase for metered street parking, which is an absolute steal...The $10-an-hour difference between a garage and a metered spot in Boston gives 'drivers a license to hunt,' says Mark Chase, a local parking consultant,'but it's not a guarantee of a parking place.' The result, naturally, is congestion."

So what should be done? Follow the lead of San Francisco and institute a dynamic pricing system suggests Doyle. But that's not all, he also recommends making people pay for residential parking permits. 

Would making parking easier conflict with the city's goal of getting people to take transit or bicycles? Perhaps. But for Doyle, that's not realistic. "No matter how great the T and Hubway are, a good portion of the population will need to drive in the city, which is why we need to make parking easier."

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Published on Thursday, November 8, 2012 in Boston Magazine
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