A proposal by Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) to start charging non-poor residents with parking permits got a rough reception at a City Council meeting today.
While Councilors Kim Janey (Roxbury) and Lydia Edwards (East Boston, Charlestown, Northh End) praised her her for starting a conversation on a tough issue - what to do about rising numbers of cars in a city with a finite number of on-street parking spaces that increasingly forces people to spend up an hour circling blocks looking for a parking space - other councilors thundered the proposal would help drive the middle class out of the city.
Those councilors said they want proof the city is actually doing something about suburbanites driving into Boston and taking up valuable parking spaces without fear of getting ticketed and about the herds of Uber and Lyft vehicles circling the city with their suburban riders.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty (at large) - who admitted his family has five cars - said the MBTA could solve the whole problem by eliminating what he said were tons of superfluous bus stops and letting the city turn them into parking spaces. "It's 2019 and we don't need a bus stop on every corner, and they don't need to be a football field in length," he said. "They don't."
That alone would free up "hundreds and hundreds" of parking spaces in every single neighborhood, he said.
Flaherty predicted that if Wu's proposal passed, all that would happen would be an increase in fraudulent handicap permits as people flock to their doctors to get the paperwork they need for them. He said Wu's proposal would especially hurt people who live in the city's densest and fastest growing areas in East Boston, Charlestown, the South End and South Boston.
"This hurts middle class families," City Councilor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) said, after acknowledging his district actually has very few streets designated as resident only.
McCarthy - already upset he pays $97 a year in Boston excise tax on his 2001 car, rather than the $8 he says he would pay if he moved a few blocks to Dedham - says "I'd like to rip open the Band-aid on Uber and Lyft and make them pay." Adding a ride-share surcharge during business hours would raise more than enough money to solve a host of Boston transportation issues, he said.
"I care about the citizens of Boston; I don't care about the citizens of Dedham, Westwood and Canton," he said.
Such an effort to tax ride-share riders might require action by the state legislature and Gov. Baker; in 2016, Baker signed a law limiting ride-share regulation to the state.
Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George (at large) also pointed to the out-of-town nature of many ride-share drivers and passengers and surburbanites who drive into town "abusing and using our streets without giving any resources." She added, "We need to make sure w'ere enforcing rules we have on our books right now. before we start to punish those who have cars."
Wu's proposal would exempt low-income residents and home-healthcare and certain school workers from a proposed $25 annual fee. Still, City Council President Andrea Campbell (Dorchester, Mattapan) said she would be particularly concerned about the impact on the low-income residents of her district. Already, she said, people who live near the Ashmont T stop are having problems finding parking spaces as growing numbers of suburbanites drive in and park on their streets - and she said people across her district have told her they are thinking of moving because of the high rates they pay on insurance.
Wu said that all of Mattapan currently has just nine cars with resident permits; that her proposal would only affect people living in areas that have resident-parking prohibitions. She said roughly 40% of the cars registered in Boston are now in neighborhoods with such programs.
City Councilor Althea Garrison (at large), who said she wants to see police enforce existing resident-only spaces first, predicted the proposed $25 fee would soon rocket up to $100 or $250 in just a few years. And she took a dig at Wu, who has also called for eliminating fares on the T: "We cannot have it both ways; we cannot say you should not pay to ride the T and then turn around and charge for parking permits."
The council took no formal action on her proposal; instead, it now goes to a committee for a public hearing.
Watch the discussion: