Finding a more ‘perfect fit’ for parking

IN THE EFFORT to get more housing built to meet demand — and to temper the continued run-up in costs that make the Boston region one of the most expensive in the country — a flashpoint has emerged that seemingly has little to do with construction costs or zoning rules over housing density.

Cars — and parking spaces for them — have become integrally connected to growth and development in Greater Boston, and a new report suggests they are serving as an economic drag on the already challenging task of building more housing at reasonable cost.

The study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council took a remarkably straightforward approach to answering the question, are we including too much parking in apartment developments in the Boston area? The organization surveyed parking garages and lots at nearly 200 apartment buildings in the Boston area and found that almost a third of the spaces, or 5,910 of the 19,439 spots at the complexes, went unused.

The report says unused parking contributes to unnecessary increases in housing costs. Based on an industry average of $16,000 per parking space, “the construction cost of those unused spaces totals an estimated $94.5 million, representing about $5,000 per housing unit” across the nearly 200 complexes included in the survey,” writes CommonWealth’s Andy Metzger.

The elephant in the parking garage in many ways is not policy over cars, but the region’s public transportation system.

It’s hard to separate efforts to promote less automobile-centric policies and practices from the focus on the MBTA and its struggle to provide reliable service to users of its core subway and bus system as well as the commuter rail system, which has particular relevance for suburban communities.

The report found less demand for parking where there were more transit-accessible jobs.

The report makes clear in its title, “Perfect Fit Parking,” that it is not offering a broadside brief against cars. The idea is not to unreasonably constrain parking, but to match it more closely to need.

“A more ‘perfect fit’ of parking supply and demand can lower development costs, enable more affordable housing, free up land for open space, and promote sustainable transportation, while also protecting neighborhoods from spillover parking,” says the report.

At the same time, the report makes clear — just as policymakers in Boston and other communities are doing through conditions attached to new development — that it’s possible to tilt the supply-and-demand equation in ways that promote a future that is less reliant on car ownership.

The more spaces made available per unit at a building, the report found, the greater the demand.

A push has been on in some communities to lower the number of spaces per unit, a trend that planners say can reduce reliance on cars in dense areas with access to public transportation. In its most extreme form, the approach has led to projects such as a 56-unit rental development going up adjacent to Ashmont Station, which is coming with no onsite parking and including a provision in leases saying tenants can’t own a car parked on the street or obtain a residential parking permit from the city.

That the project is being built at the terminal stop of one of the branches of the problem-plagued Red Line only underscores the degree to which a more car-free future in Greater Boston depends crucially on a more reliable public transit system.

MICHAEL JONAS

 

BEACON HILL

Members of Lynn’s legislative delegation, in a commentary piece, say they are done waiting for someone to boldly address the state’s transportation crisis. They want action now. (Daily Item)

Sen. Barry Finegold wants to make it clear via legislation that coercing someone to commit suicide is a crime under state law – a matter that is currently before the US Supreme Court. (Eagle-Tribune)

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who chairs the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, joined advocates at one of the state’s largest domestic violence outreach organizations Tuesday in Quincy to highlight a new public awareness campaign aimed at preventing abuse in teenage relationships. (Patriot Ledger) 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Two tornadoes ripped through Harwich and South Yarmouth, leaving 50,000 residents in surrounding areas without electricity, and causing structural damage to homes and an inn. (Cape Cod Times) 

Americans average use of about 80 to 100 gallons of water a day, and the cost of tap water in some Massachusetts municipalities is rising so fast that it is forcing some residents to make tough choices, writes Martha Davis, who is part of a team at Northeastern University researching water costs. (WBUR)

About a quarter of black Bostonians say they find the city’s new Seaport district unwelcoming compared with 6 percent of white residents. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

All eyes in Washington will be on former special counsel Robert Mueller, who is scheduled to testify today before two congressional committees. (Washington Post)

The Globe chronicles how “the Squad” took root and became a thing.

ELECTIONS

Without endorsing anyone, a Berkshire Eagle editorial sizes up the primary challenge to US Rep. Richard Neal by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. Western Mass Politics & Insight also has a piece on the race.

The Green Party will hold its annual national meeting at Salem State University starting tomorrow. (Gloucester Daily Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Home prices in the state, already among the highest in the country, continue to rise. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley is suing the state over its denial of the school’s expansion plans. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

The state education board granted Rhode Island education commissioner Angelica Infante-Green authority to take over the troubled Providence school district.

Brockton High School students will have the opportunity to earn free college credits through healthcare-related courses at local universities and internships with area healthcare employers thanks to a new program through the state Department of Education and MassHire Greater Brockton Workforce Board. (Brockton Enterprise) 

TRANSPORTATION 

A Metropolitan Area Planning Council study says nearly a third of parking spaces at residential developments sit empty all the time, a wasted expense that is driving up the cost of housing. (CommonWealth) The council also says Uber and Lyft are costing the MBTA $20 million a year in lost revenue. (Boston Magazine)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh continues his transportation offensive, meeting with top MBTA and state transportation officials and pushing for higher fees on ride-hailing apps. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Transit authority reached its original capital spending goal ($1 billion) for fiscal 2019 after all….T releases schedule for pilot commuter rail service between Foxboro and South Station….Legislative budget says tax surge should increase T funding $23 million this year. (CommonWealth)

State transportation officials outline six options for connecting Springfield and Boston but no cost estimates. Not all involve trains; some calls for buses. A full-fledged feasibility study won’t be done until 2020. (MassLive)

Officials in Marlborough are considering spending $200,000 to run a year-long pilot offering “last mile” shuttle service between the commuter rail station in Southborough and their community. (MetroWest Daily News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Globe editorial urges the federal Interior Department to speed its review of the huge offshore Vineyard Wind project, which will be imperilled if approval isn’t granted within a few weeks, according to its developers.

Fall River city officials are once again considering a ban on plastic bags, and gaining support, after having decided to focus their attention on a statewide ban earlier this year. (Herald News) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas suggests Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins shuts down her critics — Gov. Charlie Baker and now the Boston Globe — by flashing race and gender cards. For more on her attacks on the Globe, check out this piece from CommonWealth.

Federal prosecutors hope to convince a jury that Ken Brissette and Timothy Sullivan weren’t seeking financial rewards when they allegedly extorted Boston Calling organizers, but wanted to provide “payback [for] a union that was a political supporter and ally of their boss, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.” (WGBH)

Attorney General Maura Healey has opened a criminal investigation into Westfield Transport, the company that employed Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, who allegedly killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire. (WGBH)

Greg Diatchenko – whose appeal created a new state standard for juveniles convicted of the most heinous crimes – was sent back to prison for parole violations that are not in themselves crimes: testing positive for alcohol and attending a protest outside a prison. (WBUR)

While they are keeping their investigations under wraps, prosecutors have revealed they believe Carlos Rivera, charged in association with the death of 13-year-old Chloe Ricard, had other victims. (Eagle-Tribune)

MEDIA

Northeastern University media professor Dan Kennedy discusses a new study from the Knight Foundation that claims millennials are far more tuned into the news than previously assumed. (Media Nation)