Doing the math on T’s $6.5m hike in parking rates

Most of the new revenue to come from a handful of garages

MOST OF THE $6.5 MILLION in new parking revenue the MBTA is counting on to help balance the transit authority’s budget during the upcoming fiscal year budget would come from just a handful of garages, which may make it difficult to accede to political pressure to cut the size of planned increases at a couple of South Shore facilities.

The T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board approved a new parking philosophy on June 18 that seeks to levelize demand among the transit authority’s 99 garages and lots. Under the new approach, parking rates would go up on weekdays at the T’s busiest garages and hold steady or go down at its little-used facilities. Rates would drop at all but one lot on the weekends, when demand is the weakest. The overall goal, officials say, is to increase parking prices for the first time in a decade and to do so in a way that spreads demand out more evenly among the T’s lots.

The control board approved the new approach on June 18 after a debate that indicated members of the board and T staff were split on the issue. On Monday, T officials indicated they were likely to revise the policy after South Shore politicians, led by Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan, raised concerns.

The T’s new approach hits its three busiest garages – Braintree, Quincy Adams, and Alewife on the Red Line – the hardest. At all three facilities, the daily parking rate would rise from $7 to $10 on weekdays and drop to $3 on weekends.

Sullivan complained the new parking policy was implemented with little public input and that its debut on August 1 would come at a time when the Braintree and Quincy Adams garages are undergoing renovations. Other nearby T garages in Quincy Center, Wollaston, and North Quincy are also being worked on or have been shut down, funneling more commuters to Braintree and Quincy Adams.

More broadly, Sullivan said, he didn’t think it was fair to penalize drivers just because they park at busy garages.

T officials declined to share their breakdown of where they expect the $6.5 million in new parking revenue to come from, but an analysis by CommonWealth suggests the bulk of the money would come from the three Red Line garages and a handful of others, including North Quincy on the Red Line, Wonderland on the Blue Line, and Wellington on the Orange Line.

North Quincy’s weekday rate would go from $5 to $7.50, Wonderland’s would go from $5 to $7, and Wellington’s would rise from $6 to $9. Weekend rates at the three facilities would drop from $5 to $2 at Wonderland, $3 at North Quincy, and $4 at Wellington.

Sullivan said he wants the price increases scaled back at the Braintree and Quincy Adams garages, but it may be hard to justify reductions at those two facilities while implementing a similar-size increase at Alewife.

Scaling back any of the planned price increases at the three Red line garages would have a major impact on the T’s overall parking revenue numbers. According to CommonWealth’s analysis, currently planned price increases at the three Red Line garages would bring in more than $4 million in new revenue, about two-thirds of what the T is hoping to bring in overall. Cutting the planned weekday price increases at the three garages by $1 would lower the overall revenue take to $2.7 million.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

CommonWealth’s analysis doesn’t assume the higher prices will prompt drivers to use a different garage or find a different way of getting into town, which is what T officials are hoping will happen with their new parking philosophy. They think South Shore commuters, rather than driving to Braintree and Quincy Adams and paying higher daily rates, will take the commuter rail into South Station from Cohasset, Plymouth, Middleborough/Lakeville, or the Hingham Shipyard, where weekday parking prices are slated to drop from $4 to $2.

T officials also hope more commuters will drive to Mattapan (where the weekday parking rate is dropping from $4 to $2) and connect via the Mattapan trolley to the Red Line. And they hope North Shore residents will ride the commuter rail to North Station from Gloucester and Lynn (two lots where weekday parking rates are dropping from $4 to $2) rather than driving to Wonderland and catching the Blue Line.

Critics of the T’s approach, however, point out that any savings on parking a commuter would derive by avoiding parking garages on the subway system would be more than offset by paying higher fares for commuter rail service.