T pares back Alewife rate hike by $1

With construction, weekday rates will now rise from $7 to $9

THE MBTA SAID IT IS PARING BACK by $1 the proposed weekday parking rate increase set to take effect next week at its Alewife garage in light of major repairs that are set to begin there next month.

The last-minute change of heart threw a wrench in the T’s new parking strategy, made it harder to balance this year’s budget, and highlighted how the transit agency has tried to keep structural problems at the Alewife garage under wraps. The T disclosed the new parking rate at Alewife in a letter to lawmakers and municipal officials that went out Tuesday.

The MBTA’s new parking strategy, unveiled this summer, attempted to use pricing to ease demand at busy garages and increase traffic at less busy facilities. The plan called for raising weekday prices at 32 facilities, lowering them at 21, and holding them steady at 46. Prices are scheduled to go down on weekends at all but one lot. At the T’s three busiest garages – Alewife, Braintree, and North Quincy – weekday prices were originally scheduled to rise the most, going from $7 to $10.

After Braintree Mayor Joe Sullivan complained about the rate hikes at Braintree and North Quincy, the T backed off and said weekday rates at those garages would go up $2 instead of $3. The T rationalized the reduced rates by saying both garages were undergoing overhauls. The T also delayed the parking rate changes by a month, moving the starting date from August 1 to September 1.

The T left the Alewife rate hike intact, even though several legislators complained in a July 9 letter that “the conditions at the Alewife parking garage are just as decrepit and require much-needed repairs. Such poor conditions hardly justify a fare increase.”

In early August, a piece of the ceiling on the second floor of the Alewife garage gave way and fell on a car. In the wake of that incident, the T shut down the garage for two weekends in a row and eliminated all overnight parking. Officials also disclosed that they had known since November that the garage was at “imminent risk” of failure and had even arranged for a $5.7 million overhaul to begin in September, but had not disclosed that information to the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board or the public.

Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington, at a meeting of the control board on August 13, slammed T officials for keeping the public in the dark and demanded that the entire rate hike at Alewife be rescinded. T officials at that meeting said they would consider adjusting the rate hike downward. [Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story contained an incorrect first name for Sen. Friedman.]

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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.

Friedman could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

With the reductions at Braintree, North Quincy, and now Alewife, the T’s parking strategy is not going to produce as much revenue as expected. The reductions at Braintree and North Quincy caused the projected revenue gain to fall from $8.5 million to $7.3 million. The change at Alewife, which holds around 2,500 cars, could cut revenues by as much as $500,000 more; T officials had no immediate estimate of the revenue fallout.