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Councilors say Boston should crack down on suburbanites taking up our parking spaces before making residents pay for permits

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.

Wu's proposal.

Watch the discussion:

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Comments

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

Can we really take the opinions of an elected official seriously if he doesn't know the excise tax is the same statewide rate in every city or town? Good Lord....

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So Timmy might be moving out to Dedham then to get out of Boston and our oppressive gov't.

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We get cheaper insurance and a city council without 5-car Flaherty? Ok, let's do it!

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Boston could divest itsef of his district and kill two birds with one stone

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Lots of good people in Roslindale, don't throw us out with the bath water!

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"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."

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When in doubt blame the MBTA! How about allowing school buses which tie up traffic in the afternoon be allowed to use MBTA stations and bus stops to drop of and pick up kids.

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Yes, Mr five-cars-Flaherty, when in doubt, blame the suburbanites and the MBTA.

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Where did Councillor Flaherty blame suburbanites?

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If you watch the video, you'll see Flaherty accusing suburbanites of running medical frauds with their doctors so they can get HP placards and park in downtown Boston for free all day.

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We could fit so many more cars in if we just eliminated all the superfluous sidewalks around. And think of how quickly you could drive around in those tunnels under the city if we just got rid of the superfluous train tracks! I might finally have somewhere to put my other 4 cars during street cleaning.

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"I care about the citizens of Boston; I don't care about the citizens of Dedham, Westwood and Canton," he said.

Cheers to that.

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I sort of agree that this is ultimately a tax on the middle class and I strongly support raising fees on ride share.
Somerville has some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen, even before the current construction projects , and residents pay for permits. I’m confused how making residents pay for permits in Boston will realistically help traffic. 25$ for a permit is nothing ! How does that convince people to stop driving ??

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In theory at least (although probably not with a price as low as $25) it helps traffic by encouraging people to hold fewer permits, which in turn encourages them to park fewer cars on the street, which frees up street parking spaces, which reduces "cruising." It may also encourage some people not to own a car, which reduces driving.

Again, though, all of these things probably only happen if the dollar amount is a meaningful one. $25 is probably just enough to cover the cost of administering the program.

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The program has been using up taxpayer money since it began 30+ years ago. It's not a "new program". I think of it more as finally charging something to make up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city spends staffing resident parking windows, printing stickers, and hiring enforcement officers to check far flung residential streets for permits. What if that time was spent ticketing for safety-related parking issues like blocked crosswalks and hydrants?

Resident parking isn't a public good like roads/transit, police, fire, schools, etc. It's a perk for the people who decide that they want/need a car. The rest of us shouldn't have their decision become everyone's burden.

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Totally agree with SteveE. This program costs the city money to administer. People who don't own cars are paying for this through their taxes but so are people who own cars in neighborhoods like Mattapan that don't have resident parking permits. Why should they have to subsidize free resident parking on Beacon Hill?

It also makes no sense not to tie the number of permits to the number of spots, probably not on a one-to-one basis, but if we have 3 times as many permits in a neighborhood as there are spots you are guaranteeing a certain level of block-circling traffic.

Finally, for the outlier households with 5+ cars, of course they should have to pay more. If these households had to pay to garage all of those cars there is no way they would own that many. By giving away permits we're enabling and even incentivizing this kind of selfish behavior.

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Maybe it's time to think about limiting the number of cars that can be registered to a single address, or increasing fees for additional cars registered. If Boston expects to continue attracting and keeping residents and employers the Council *must* start thinking creatively.

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I do recall reading that Wu's proposal was $25 for first car at a residence, $50 for second (and I don't know if it would continue to go up).

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...which discriminates against adults / roommates in a shared living arrangement, which arguably is better than having single people living in big apartments by themselves.

A sticker fee is definitely the cleanest approach to managing supply : demand. But, no reason for the fee to be the same $25 in Beacon Hill as in West Roxbury.

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Because they push families into into shelters. Also they are terrible neighbors. A single person that can afford a big apartment (like me actually) can afford to park their car. This is exactly how the government subsidizes car ownership. Nobody really needs a car in Boston. No matter how bad you think the MBTA is, it is so much better than people living way out in the country. If you can share a bathroom, you can share a car (or pay the extra expense). I do believe we need more single person housing in the city that is affordable without subsidies.

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Affordable single person housing would be nice. But in the meantime, it exists mostly in the form of roommate situations. Restricting or punishing these arrangements would only take away that opportunity.

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Paying your fare share is not a punishment. If you can't afford to store your car, you can't afford a car. It is not everyone's responsibility to maintain the illusion that every adult is entitled to a car.

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At minimum, the city should not be giving out more stickers than there are available parking spots in specific neighborhoods. Not so much an issue in say Hyde Park with plentiful on-street parking and much less density than downtown. But in Beacon Hill, for example, there are way more stickers than actual spots because they cost nothing and the city doesn't limit them. One critique of Wu's approach here is that she should focus more on that aspect - cap the number of permits so that people who do have them actually stand a chance to find a spot, which they don't now. Enlist the drivers in this crusade and it'll stand a political chance.

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I'm working on a proposal to slowly decrease the number of available permits until it's roughly equal to the number of spaces (probably somewhat greater-- you might have an offstreet space but sometimes need to park on the street, like if you have a guest in town...) --- you'd need to phase it in over several years so people can get used to it, decide whether or not to keep their cars, etc etc. But it's got to be a meaningful cost.

Somerville charges $40 per sticker and we still have about sixty thousand permits in the city. Nobody actually knows how many available spaces there are.

In the North End there are about 2 stickers for every space; in Beacon Hill there are about 4 stickers per space. At the very least, that price should increase and the number of stickers issued should decrease. It would make having a sticker worth the money if you knew you could find a spot for it.

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So who gets/keeps a sticker under this scenario?

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Presumably, with the word "phased" being used here, as people move away, new stickers are not issued for whoever moves in to those locations.

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I wonder how quickly that would play out to become something like the liquor license scenario. I mean,some people already pay hundreds of thousands just to rent a parking space in some parts of town, let alone do it officially through the city.

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Part of Wu's proposal is that parking permits would NOT be able to be resold. (They are not today either.) They must be tied to a particular household and/or car. I strongly support that.

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Which, alas, I didn't include in my story, but she pointed to East Boston, which currently has a parking task force looking at the overall issue.

Wu's proposal does include a requirement the city conduct a detailed parking census that could be used for fine-tuning parking issues in each neighborhood, but even there, you might want to get even more fine grained: The parking issues in Roslindale Square are a lot different than they are in my middle-o-nowhere street where nobody ever wants to park unless they live here or are visiting somebody who does (on those odd occasions when one of the neighbors has a big party and we go out shopping and come back and the space I normally use in front of our house is taken, well, I might have to find a parking space a whole half a block away).

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My street doesn't have Residential parking but I'm pretty sure I could get a permit for Roslindale and then use that to park down by the CR stop. I think that's kind of goofy because it makes someone who lives on Conway St. compete for parking with someone who drives in from 'outer' Roslindale.

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These arguments seem to be dancing around the real issues, the high cost (monetary and otherwise) of living in Boston. If people are being priced out of living in Boston that is not the fault of suburbanites, it is increasing demand in a "World Class City"(tm)

Blaming and penalizing "suburbanites" for the act of driving into Boston does not really solve the problem. Would you rather not have these people work and spend their money in Boston?

As for Lyft and Uber, would you rather have all these riders drive around in their own cars with legitimate Boston parking stickers? There is no limit on those regardless of the number of parking spots.

IMO the rise of ride sharing and driving has to do with the poor and inconsistent quality of public transportation. Make trains and buses arrive on time with enough capacity for current ridership and the number of cars will go down.

Placing blame on "the foreigners" of suburbia will do nothing in the long run to solve the problem. It only create a good sound bite and allows for politician to do nothing politically bold to solve the problem.

//ill get off the soap box now

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Uber and Lyft, they actually increase congestion given their cruising time (deadhead time) when they are not transporting anybody. I ride TNCs once I a while, but they’re not all that sustainable of a solution. Yes, public transit needs to improve, but raising fees on TNCs would help fund transit.

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This. And also, increased congestion makes the bus service less reliable to boot.

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They will stop all traffic in my neighborhood (Allston), including blocking access to a street to drop off/pick up. They do not care about holding up anyone for their ride. They then drive at 5 miles an hour while checking their app before they commit to a route in case they have another ride - never pull over to do that. I never thought I'd miss the relative manners of the taxis.

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Yellow cabs cruise around looking for fares. Uber/Lyft tends to pull over and wait.

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Uber and Lyft have done far more good than many, if not most regular taxi cab drivers, since both Lyft and Uber are a hell of a lot cheaper and more reliable than most regular taxi cab drivers. I'll also add that another reason many people rely on Lyft and Uber is because our public transportation system is so unreliable, deplorable, and unpredictable.

Also, the Lyft and Uber people know how to avoice adding to the congestion by using their GPS's. I've used Lyft quite a bit myself when I need to get to appointments, or elsewhere, especially in horrible winter weather, because the MBTA is so unreliable and unpredictable now, and Lyft has proved to be a god-send for me, when I've needed it.

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Both companies public admit they subsidize cheap rates until they can use autonomous vehicles to offer rides w/o paying drivers. Failing that, they'll start raising fares when they start running out of money.

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If you are a car on the street in the city, you are adding to the congestion. No amount of fancy routing software will change that and Uber and Lyft are no exception.

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You must be one of those people that support Uber/ Lyft drivers idling in bike lanes waiting to be summoned by their next customer. Typical lazy suburbanite attitude.

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Where do you get that? He doesn't say anything to support Ubers and Lyfts parking illegally.

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Suburbanites aren't lazy, they just choose to spend their money differently (ie not pay rent in the city) or have jobs that don't allow them to live in the city. Stop talking about people who live outside of Boston proper like they're idiots who shouldn't be able to enjoy the culture in the city occasionally.* Suburbanite money is just as good as any other when we're shopping or dining or parking (more so, because we don't get free permits!).

*This is directed at not just this post, but many across this website.

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The city council is afraid that people will only remember that they voted to charge them $25 come election day. Rather than talk sensibly about it, they brought up this whole Uber buggaboo, that really has nothing to do with resident parking.

And if the problem really IS that those damn illegals from Dedham are taking up all the resident spaces, then let's get cracking with the enforcement. (I never foresaw the day where Althea and I would agree on anything.)

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they do get away with murder parking in resident only neighborhoods without getting ticketed, esp where there is touristy stuff like the MFA, the Garden, the North End. Why Uber or take public transportation if it's free? They need to enforce the resident only parking regardless of this permit fee, which is so reasonable as to be ridiculous - really should be much more (this from someone who would end up paying it). I also agree with the multiple posts - there would be less Uber/Lyfts if the T in all it's forms (train/bus/subway) were more reliable and convenient. The suburbanites might even be tempted to use the trains if they could be counted on (and cheaper than the garage parking they would be forced to do if the city properly busted them for illegally parking).

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Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.

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ban most cars on all the streets that you won't need to use a kayak on soon. that will fix it.

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Gee, how about we increase the gas tax...how many years has it been? And in that time how many increases has the MBTA seen? Once again proving cars are king.

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Don't you remember that the "liberal" citizens of MA recently rejected the indexing of the gas tax to the inflation rate? If they voted that reasonable measure down down, I doubt there is support to raise it now, even though we need the money form our crumbling roads and raising the tax when gas prices are relatively low is the perfect time to do it.

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This born and raised in Boston "liberal" wants it raised. As do my liberal friends and family. I am not sure why people think "liberal" is a bad word.

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"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."

wow, genius logic.

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As telling your kids they can have all the vegetables they want, and only one slice of cake for dinner! Impossible!

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for Wu to have refrained from doing a double take

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The Flaherty Plan for Effective City Living:

- Block new housing
- Stop new bike lanes
- Remove bus stops
- Blame traffic congestion on handicapped placard abuse
- Own fives cars and expect to park them for free
- Earn two six-figure paychecks as a City Councilor and Partner at law firm.

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Two consecutive Terms Limit for Boston City Council please!

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A codicil to your first one:

-Watch the value of his house skyrocket

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Are these people seriously arguing about someone who owns a car paying another 7 cents per day for the privilege of limiting who can park on their street? Most people spend more than that at Dunkin' Donuts.

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Yup, peak car owner entitlement

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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

Hey that's news to me! I didn't know there was some huge discount to garage my car in Dedham. Or it's possible that McCarthy is full of baloney. Based on that:

Under MGL Chapter 60A, all Massachusetts residents who own and register a motor vehicle must annually pay a motor vehicle excise.

It doesn't say "all Massachusetts residents, except those living in Dedham, must pay an excise tax." It would be really nice if the lawmakers had some even loose grip on, you know, the law.

Also, what kind of fancy-schmancy car is this? $97 excise tax is based on $25 per $1000 or the original sales price, and 10% of that for cars older than 5 years. So, $97*(1000/25)*10 = $38800, for a list price in 2001, so $56,000 in current dollars. If you can afford a $50,000 car, you can afford the excise tax on that car (which, as previously mentioned, you have to pay no matter where you live).

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a Dedham exemption.

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Tell me about how upset you are McCarthy - per his public campaign finance reports - he pays his car insurance and car payment from his campaign funds. Boo boo McCarthy.
The struggle is real.

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If you can’t afford the $25 permit fee then you should not own a car.

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I've added it to the bottom of the original post.

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Even a Prius will cost you over $25 to tank up once. Paying $25 to park for 365 days would not be a burden to anyone who owns and drives a car.

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I have an idea:

Charge market rate for parking permits, and allow anyone to buy them regardless of residence. And don't require an annual permit -- let people pay for a few hours as well.

Note that market rate is not the same thing as what a nearby garage charges, since street parking isn't as good as a garage, and there's no private owner who needs to make a profit. And it would be close to $0 in neighborhoods with street parking to spare.

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Issue no more permits and let the current owners sell them like liquor licenses and Taxi medallions

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Huh? I don't like suburbanites any more than anyone else (and I've been one now for a decade), but what point is Ms. George trying to make?

If she's referring to commuters, then OK-- they might take a space, but whether it "belongs" to someone who lives near said space is questionable.

But if she's talking about people who are coming into town to shop, go to restaurants, and otherwise spend money without taking other resources than a parking space, then that's a win for the city: Money goes in, little to no money comes out. Tourists aren't taking city dollars out, really, not in a significant way anyway. Whether this Is a good thing for the city overall is another question, but the economic/resource argument is leaky.

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An example - on my (non permit) street, there are very very few spaces between around 6am and 7 pm. because the neighborhood is so busy, right? nope, lots of spaces and availability on the weekends, holidays, evenings. people from dedham, norwood, etc, drive in and park, so they can walk to the commuter rail station without paying zone 2, 3, 4 fees. they cause traffic during rush hour, put wear and tear on the streets, leave trash, and endanger pedestrians, and the city gets nothing out of it.

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The city gets the major tax revenue from the downtown building they work in.

Do the residents who need those parking spaces somehow not cause traffic or put wear and tear on the streets, and are universally better drivers towards pedestrians and responsible with their trash? Or are you generalizing and shifting blame?

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Space savers permanently, deadly force authorized, problem solved.

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so only suburbanites use rideshares now?

mbta sucks....please don't make them raise my uber/lyft rates.

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Yup. Anything you don't like is the fault of outsiders. And we have to reserve privileges and public resources for people like us.

Sound familiar? These selfish us-versus-them ideas are right in line with the orange guy on Twitter.

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More Candidates for Boston City Council District 6 please! West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury, Mission Hill, BackOfTheHill. https://www.universalhub.com/comment/726241#comment-726241

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are loaded with vehicles with out of state plates every evening. The Mayor enables these tax scofflaws to do this because he refuses to post these City properties with Rsdidrnt Parking signs. You want $25? Get it from these people.

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The schools should rent the spaces during non school hours. It would be tough though because many schools have employees that work long hours and activities in the evening. Renting parking out nights and evening is big business.

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How can an elected official not realize that bus stops are close together because of disabled and elderly riders? When I lived in southie the state rep used to stop at broadway to grab any elderly constituent.

I think that if you just did an audit of how much administrating these resident stickers cost it would be fine. Even if we don't accomplish any "green" goals i think we can pay as we go.

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Take a look at bus stops in the suburbs. Are there no elderly and disabled there? The best s stops aren’t on every corner.

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density

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.

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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

"I care about the citizens of Boston; I don't care about the citizens of Dedham, Westwood and Canton," he said.

Do y'all remember the last scene in The Lion King, when Scar tries to weasel out of all of the horrible things he's done by blaming the hyenas, but then the hyenas hear him throwing them under the bus and even though he thinks he's gotten away with it, then they tear his throat out?

No reason, just wondering if you've watched it recently.

Unrelated: I guess you could say I'm in favor of Mr. McCarthy moving a few blocks down the street to Dedham, and then running for public office again.

Bonus unrelated fact: MA excise tax on cars more than 5 years old is .25%. If he's paying $97/year in excise tax, his car cost 2/3 as much as the average household in his constituency makes in a year.

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But what if he did the frugal thing and bought that car used?

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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.

True but people have long been flocking to their doctor for fraudulent handicap permits long before Wu's proposal. Who could blame them when there is no enforcement for doctor or applicant. Much like Oxycontin in the 90's, it seems anyone can obtain a permit from their doctor simply by asking. One qualifier is unable to walk 200 feet without stopping to rest. The catchall is any other medically debilitating qualifying condition. How about anxiety at the thought of not getting a space outside the front door?

While the plan was well intended in the 70's for paraplegics just beginning to make use of advanced appliances that allowed them to drive, the original handicap parking program required an unmistakable MA license plate with the wheelchair symbol as the first character. This was deemed a stigma on the disabled so they switched to a placard with the picture of the disabled person but almost immediately allowed the driver (in many cases an able bodied family member) to cover the identifying photo for "privacy" reasons. Reporting the death of the card holder is voluntary. In many cases, the permit is simply passed down as a matter of inheritance. Although the city keeps death certificates, I'm not aware of any communication to BTD to remove signs from in front of homes of the deceased. It's essentially a free for all. If a motorist can get by the moral issue and occassional dirty looks, they'd be crazy not to get one.

Since the Registry Police merged with the MSP in 1992, there's nobody dedicated to seriously investigating these things. I can assure you there is no police academy training in the matter. If anything it's suggested that officers avoid the matter so as not to appear insensitive.

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When a funeral home notifies Social Security of the deceased's passing; that info is apparently also shared with other government agencies.

My father died one year ago. Within 60 days of his passing; I, as his Personal Representative/Executor, received a notice from the RMV to return his H/C placard. Policies are changing - slowly - but they are changing.

It took me a couple of years for the Registry to approve my request. I was undergoing several surgeries and had limited physical capability. I ended up going in to the Medical Affairs office in my motorized scooter with my application before finally being approved. Medical Affairs was in Chinatown at the time. I was in tears by the time I got upstairs to the administrative offices.

I could spend days arguing with you over your thoughts on the H/C placard. It all depends on which side of the windshield you sit what your opinion on the matter is.

Don't get me started on H/C parking scofflaws driving 'official' vehicles - both marked and unmarked.....

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"our parking spaces" People have been storing their iron on public property so long they think they own it.

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Sorry I had to share.. too funny

And yes it's real

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_F._Flaherty

PS - Adam, I can no longer directly insert tweets with the full embedded tweet.

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There are different categories of Streets. Streets that have been accepted by a municipal corporation are their property and obligation to repair and plow. Unaccepted streets generally become municipal property after 6 years of use. Private ways remain the property of the abutting owner to the middle of the way. However they only own the land under the street. Generally everyone in the subdivision has a right of usage. It is illegal to park on a private way, but rarely enforced. One must first go police chiefing and post a sign.

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Re: Wu Parking Permit Idea
If every household buys one or two parking permits, will they feel that no non-residents have no right to park on city streets? If family members or friends visit, will they be able to park on the street? The parking congestion is due to the fact, that there are many places we have to go to in a timely matter because there is not enough public transportation options. Also, some people may not feel comfortable waiting for a bus very late in the evening. The problem also is that the city is permitting new housing construction that does not provide at least one parking space per unit. Or, if they do, there is a fee to take advantage of the parking because of an additional fee to park in the development. There are many issues to be discussed and implemented before seeking a cost of living in the city and owning a car.

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Her proposal includes a visitor pass. And you are wrong about new housing too. It is impossible to get a building approved without parking. There have been a couple of buildings next to subway stations without parking, but those residents are specifically denied resident parking.

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