Boston City Council to take up paid resident parking debate

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu (D - At Large) says it might be time to start charging for resident parking permits.

In an order submitted to the council this Wednesday, Wu asked for a hearing regarding the city’s resident parking program.

"It's public street space that's being given away for free... when we desperately need revenue for infrastructure improvements and to make our neighborhoods better and safer, also," said said Wu.

She notes there is currently no limit to the number of resident parking stickers available per household, which she says is a departure from the policies of several towns and cities surrounding Boston.

“Offering unlimited, free resident parking stickers leads to inefficient use of the valuable resource of on-street parking as well as increasing congestion and emissions from residents circling the neighborhood to find a parking spot since there are more valid parking stickers issued than available on-street parking spaces,” her order states.

She notes the city’s priority from the 2017 Transportation Policy Briefing includes “parking management reforms” as a priority.

"I hear from a lot of businesses that say their employees are moving from metered spot to metered spot every two hours in the middle of the day. Or we hear from home healthcare workers or teachers trying to visits students at schools throughout the city," said Wu.

She doesn't have a specific fee in mind. Boston suburbs - like Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville - all have parking permit fees ranging from $25 to $40 a year.

Some Southie residents hope to spend less time circling.

"It's tough. It's really tough. They have to drive around. We had friends come one night and it took an hour to find a space," said resident Janet Baker.

Others think it just makes sense.

"I think everyone would just pony up the money. The only we would do is raise money for the City of Boston that we desperately need," said resident Ryan O'Leary.

But we also spoke with residents who say they pay enough to live here and that free parking should remain a perk.

Wu said last year she thinks there could be a different payment structure per neighborhood, based on demand. She'd also like a discount program for lower-income residents.

The order means Boston’s committee overseeing parking will take up the issue to decide whether changes should be made to the city’s resident parking policies.

Wu said she plans on holding discussions in each Boston neighborhood.

MORE: Boston residents could begin paying for parking in the future