T backtracking on parking rate hike

T backtracking on parking rate hike

Reversal comes after complaints from Braintree’s mayor

MBTA OFFICIALS INDICATED on Monday that they are considering lowering some of the parking rate increases they approved just a week ago, at least for the heavily used Braintree and Quincy-Adams garages.

The reversal came about after Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan complained to T officials about the lack of public notice and the unfairness of the parking rate increase, which would debut August 1 as the Braintree and Quincy-Adams garages are undergoing renovations. Others have complained that the Fiscal and Management Control Board’s quick action on the parking rate changes, the first in 10 years, may have violated the state’s open meeting law.

“It was not really our intention to proceed without input from the communities,” said MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez, who added that he has been meeting with Sullivan, Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, and other members of the South Shore legislative delegation and hopes to have a resolution that can be voted on by the control board soon.

At its meeting on June 18, the control board voted to adjust rates at its 99 parking facilities by hiking prices when the garages are busy and lowering them when and where customers are scarce – on weekends and at certain lots.

Overall, the plan called for raising weekday prices at 32 facilities, lowering them at 21, and holding them the same at 46. On weekends, prices are scheduled to go down at 98 facilities by 50 percent; the charge at the remaining lot – the one at Sullivan Square – will remain unchaged at $6. The plan was expected to bring in $6.5 million from the parking rate increases, plus another $2 million from other initiatives.

The T’s three busiest garages – Braintree, Quincy-Adams, and Alewife – would see their weekday rates rise from $7 to $10 and their weekend rates drop to $3 on weekends. At parking lots at Forest Hills, Oak Grove, Waban, Wellington, and Sullivan Square, weekday rates will rise from $6 to $9 and weekend rates will drop to $3, except at Sullivan Square.

T officials have called the new approach demand pricing, reflecting their desire to use prices to reduce demand at busy garages and increase demand at low-traffic facilities.

Sullivan, who serves on the state Transportation Department board and knows T officials well, attended Monday’s meeting of the control board and thanked the members for their willingness to reconsider their earlier vote and come up with “something more thoughtful.” Afterward, he admitted to having a bit of a “temper tantrum” about the parking rate increase after first learning about it last Tuesday.

He said raising prices when the garages are already undergoing renovations makes a bad situation worse. He also said he wasn’t in favor of penalizing people just because they use a garage in high demand.

Asked if Alewife’s rate hike has come up in his discussions with T officials, Sullivan said it hadn’t. He said he didn’t think Cambridge officials had raised any concerns about the increase.

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.

The control board’s vote on the parking rate changes last Monday was somewhat unusual because there was disagreement among board members and MBTA officials on how to proceed. Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, control board chair Joseph Aiello, and Ramirez favored a less aggressive pricing policy that would have netted $2 million less in revenue. Pollack said she was concerned the higher rates would prompt some riders to abandon the T. She also worried that the higher rates could anger customers using the Braintree and Quincy Adams garages, which are undergoing renovations.

Other members of the control board pressed for a more aggressive pricing approach that would bring in the full $6.5 million. The final vote of the control board was unanimous after the members all agreed to revisit the policy at the end of the year.