Can we outsmart traffic and parking woes?
Apps and congestion pricing latest attempts to aid drivers
THERE IS ONLY so much highway space available to accommodate the crush of cars commuting into and around Boston, just as there are only so many parking spaces in which to stash them once they’ve arrived.
But that zero-sum game doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t ways to relieve both traffic and parking logjams.
New apps are making it possible to search out parking spaces in Boston and compare prices being offered, as garages that have signed up with the spate of online sites are offering big discounts off their standard rates. There is even an Airbnb-like branch of the new app-based parking sector opening up, with owners of individual parking spaces putting them up for rent online. (One Back Bay condo owner lists his space on a parking app at the bargain basement price of $3.50 an hour.)
Meanwhile, when it comes to easing traffic congestion, the idea of the day is congestion toll pricing for drivers on the Massachusetts Turnpike and Tobin Bridge. The state budget approved this week by lawmakers includes a provision calling for a pilot study that would offer a discount on tolls to drivers using the roads during off-peak hours. The idea is to create an incentive for those with scheduling flexibility to drive at times that roads aren’t the most overloaded.
Even though the pilot programs calls for a 25 percent discount on tolls during off-peak hours, many are suspicious that congestion pricing would ultimately mean raising tolls from their baseline rate for those driving during peak time periods.Herald columnist Michael Graham applauds Baker (in a bit of a backhanded way) for not taking the bait-and-switch argument that the plan would merely lead to lower tolls for off-peak users. “This is the sort of blue-state social engineering he’s usually more than happy to go along with,” writes Graham.
Baker may well hold his ground on behalf of toll payers. If he does, that puts the ball in his court to offer ideas to address the gridlock eating at the economic productivity of the region — and the nerves of those stuck in it.