Walsh wants to hike parking fines
Boston mayor proposes increased penalties to raise $5 million for transportation needs
BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH will unveil a $5 million plan to improve the city’s transportation system, ranging from repaving roads and sidewalks to creating dedicated bus lanes, and plans to hike parking violation fines to pay for the effort.
Walsh plans to include the money in his fiscal 2019 budget to be unveiled Tuesday and submitted to the City Council. The council will also have to separately approve Walsh’s plan to hike parking fines for 11 of the 36 statutory parking violations. The proposed increases range from 20 percent to more than doubling some penalties. The plan includes hiring 19 new employees for planning, administration and, key to the revenue generation, parking enforcement.
“Getting from Point A to Point B should be safe, affordable, and reliable – and this strategy is a bold, progressive way to ensure transportation in Boston is equitable for everyone,” Walsh said in a statement.
“The thing we heard [from the public] above and beyond anything else was a need to make our streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists,” Osgood said. “We see this as a great opportunity to think about how we change the way we move people in the city of Boston. We need to be moving people in a different way. One way in which that happens is making our current system work more efficiently.”
The proposed budget includes $1.4 million in salaries; $2 million to repave some streets and sidewalks; $750,000 for the Walkable Streets program; $400,000 to connect missing links in bike and pedestrian paths in the city’s parks and green spaces; and adding $300,000 to the strategic bike program.
The plan would earmark $150,000 for stormwater runoff measures such as permeable pavement for some sidewalks and rain gardens to absorb water and keep it from running down streets carrying contaminants. But Osgood said most of the resurfacing and repaving will be with the impervious asphalt currently in use.
Much of the plan focuses on working with the MBTA to improve bus service but no cost was put on that. Walsh will create a “Transit Team” made up of six people who will work primarily on improving bus service through dedicated lanes and traffic signal priority adjustment, including improving and increasing service from neighborhoods such as Mattapan and Dorchester to the Longwood Medical Area where there are plenty of job opportunities.
“The Mattapan neighborhood realizes heavy bus ridership, but there is no direct public transportation connection between Mattapan and the Longwood Medical Area,” said state Rep. Russell Holmes, whose district includes the neighborhoods and who chaired the advisory committee for Walsh’s Go Boston 2020 transportation master plan. “Building a direct connection will have dual benefits, providing the community with reliable bus access to area medical institutions, as well as offering Mattapan and Dorchester residents with a quick connection to the many economic opportunities available in the [Longwood Medical Area].”
The plan also includes a new program manager to work with and develop policies for emerging technologies such as transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, electric vehicles, and driverless cars. Among the areas to discuss, said Osgood, was having dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas for ride-hailing services so drivers won’t stop in the middle of the street and cause traffic jams.
The area likely to draw the most interest is the hike in parking fines. Under the plan, fines would increase for 11 parking violations identified as responsible for the most significant problems for residents and businesses. Walsh is proposing raising fines for meter violations from $25 to $40; no parking and double parking fines to between $55 to $90, up from $25 to $75; and parking in a street cleaning area overnight will get the miscreant a $90 fine, more than double the current $40. The 11 violations generated more than 935,000 tickets in fiscal 2017.
Emme Handy, the city’s chief financial officer, said the fines will not only raise revenues for the initiatives, they will trigger “positive behavioral change” among drivers and would lessen congestion by having fewer cars on the streets. She said even if there is a reduction in cars, officials feel confident the fine increase will generate sustainable revenues.
Osgood pointed out fines have not been raised in more than 10 years and this would bring many to the level of other major US cities. He said officials focused on the 11 areas that were of the most concern to residents whose streets get clogged with double parking and illegal parking in resident-only areas as well as businesses who complain people stay at meters long beyond the two-hour limit because the $25 fine is often cheaper than a garage.Osgood said officials could revisit the other 25 categories of violations but, at this point, that’s not on the table. He said the increased fines and added staff will not necessarily lead to heightened enforcement. Osgood said the number of enforcement requests from residents to the city’s 311 hotline has increased from 4,500 in 2014 to more than 35,000 in the 2017 calendar year.
“This just allows us to be more responsive to requests that come in,” he said.