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Councilors to look at easing burden of parking enforcement on poor residents

Mejia

The Boston City Council agreed today to consider ways to help poor residents who find tickets on their car windshields.

But several councilors said that while they appreciate at-large Councilor Julia Mejia's proposal to let residents get a reduction on ticket fees by showing they meet certain income levels, they added they might prefer other ways to help out such residents instead of tinkering with ticket fees - such as doing something about the even more onerous fees and inconvenience of having their cars towed or in offering them community service in lieu of cash payments, or interest-free payment schedules.

Mejia said she began thinking about the burdens of parking fines on lower-income residents as she got ready for her inauguration as a city councilor last month - when she discovered she owed $159 in tickets, yet had to scramble to find the money to enter city service without owing the city money, since, of course, her $103,500 councilor pay had yet to start.

Councilor Andrea Campbell (Dorchester) said she feels the pain. "I have personally helped constituents pay tickets they were unable to pay," she said. And she said it's not an issue of people trying to avoid punishment for a parking infraction. She recalled one woman who made the rounds of every councilor's office, in tears, seeking help with a ticket she could no longer afford because she had been laid off. And she said there has to be a better way to punish scofflaws without towing their cars all the way to Frontage Road.

Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown) praised Mejia for turning an "equity lens" on the issue, but said at this point she would prefer to look at such things as allowing residents with payment issues to get an extended period to pay off tickets interest free. She added her own personal gripe is how you have to pay a fee to pay a parking ticket online.

Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), however, opposed the idea. While he said he understands "it is very expensive to be poor," he said the city should spend more time helping residents reduce their need for auto transportation or to park illegally in the first place, through such steps as free public transportation, more meters in city business districts to encourage the freeing up of spaces, more bicycle paths and adoption of rental e-scooters.

The next move for Mejia's proposal is a hearing at which city officials and residents can testify.

Neighborhoods: 

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Comments

A well-intentioned but backwards-thinking approach. The focus must be on moving away from anything that further incentivizes car use in the city. I think Edwards has a better idea to extend the payments over a period of time to ease the one-time hit.

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Voting closed 32

This also incentives drivers to break the law. You already can't go one block in Boston without seeing a car on the sidewalk, bike lane, crosswalk etc. This would only make things worse. Councilor Meija is apparently fine if pedestrians are endangered if it saves her a few bucks.

Don't want to pay a fine? Don't break the law. Drivers are such pathetic cry babies around here.

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"You already can't go one block in Boston without seeing a car on the sidewalk, bike lane, crosswalk etc."

This could be proved incorrect very quickly if anyone cared to do so.

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If poor people cant read signs, maybe a literacy program would be more helpful

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I mean I am certainly not indepthly aware of each individual motorists financial standings but with the number of motorists that seem to have trouble reading speed limits, no turn on red, no parking, etc I have to wonder if its crosses-over with a few different demographics.

Police too, they seem to drive right by parked cars next to the difficult-to-understand "NO PARKING" signs.

Hey but the subtle jab at those citizens less off than others was cute.

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So if someone throws on their hazards doing Lyft or Uber they just get around this. It's only those who really park. That's the key. Everyone just throw your hazards on if you do anything illegal and it is a cloak that protects you against personal ACCOUNTABILITY.

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This is another situation where the City Council could really use some actual data to make a case here. How many residents have actually run into this issue, what were their incomes, what does this kind of thing look like in other cities, etc?

And maybe more importantly - how does it compare to the value of enforcing parking rules overall, e.g. do we really want to make it easier for people to park illegally?

Maybe there's a case here for lowering parking fees on some residents, but I'd like to see the councilors actually make one.

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Mejia said she began thinking about the burdens of parking fines on lower-income residents as she got ready for her inauguration as a city councilor last month - when she discovered she owed $159 in tickets, yet had to scramble to find the money to enter city service without owing the city money, since, of course, her $103,500 councilor pay had yet to start.

Personal experiences should of course educate an elected official's actions and what they focus on. But this one is a lil iffy. She basically wants the city to reduce parking fines because she got a bunch of them? Wasn't there an issue some years back about city councilors getting parking tickets thrown out too? Maybe just don't park illegally in the first place...

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What is she overlooking or ignoring in her current capacity?

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So, Councilor Mejia accumulated $159 in parking tickets and only “discovered” them when she ran for office?

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After she won the recount and was about to take office.

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Misread the headline and got briefly excited that she was going after parking minimums driving up the cost of housing.

We already have an "anything goes" attitude towards driving/parking in this town. It's not working. Going further in that direction seems pretty insane, however worthy the intentions are.

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Part of the problem is it's not "anything goes" as much as it's "anything goes as long as you can afford $100 once in a while and otherwise you're screwed"

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It's a fine for a violation. Don't want to pay? Don't park where you shouldn't, or just hop on the bus to be sure.

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The city could calculate parking tickets based on the tax value of the car. That would be reasonable.

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That's a really clever idea. I can see some rich people with crappy cars taking advantage, but if done right that could work.

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[Responding to my own comment, sorry]

Rich guys who go to every Celtics/Bruins game would all buy a $2000 beater and park it in a loading zone for every game. They get a ticket every time, but their reduced fine would be less than the 40 bucks to park in the garage.

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It's why the rich get $10,000 speeding tickets. The fine is a percentage of your income.

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I would think a proposal like this would violate equal protection under the law.

Being poor shouldn't be any more of a get out of punishment card than affluenza.

I also think this proposal maligns the poor by asserting that somehow poor people are either less capable of following or more apt to break the law that wealthier people. Bigotry of lower expectations.

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You will have even more cars parked on sidewalks in Mattapan than you already have.

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Is there a bunch parked on the sidewalks of Beacon Hill right now?

Because the ticket amount is peanuts to them and if we made it peanuts in Mattapan, you're saying they'd do it more often.

Means-testing civil penalties is the most even-handed way to do it. Everyone would pay the same relative penalty to what they can afford. The rich would pay more, the poor would pay less. Everyone would feel the same sting. If too many people ignore the penalty, raise the percentage so the sting keeps everyone from doing it.

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The alternative of off-street parking is generally less costly than eating the fines for parking illegally -- and to some degree, the cost of parking in lots or garages in the downtown core is driven by the cost of a parking ticket. If the fine for parking in a No Parking zone were only $10, almost no one would pay $40/day for a space in a garage.

I can see giving someone with a low income a break on a ticket or two a year since everyone makes mistakes. But if you can't afford a parking ticket and can't be bothered to read signs, can you really afford to own a car?

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Why do you think people only get parking tickets because they can't be bothered to read signs?

Anyone who parks on the street every day eventually gets ticketed unfairly.

My favorite example is that car in JP with all the rants postered on the back telling BTD meter maids to stop giving them bogus tickets, because they are registered properly and have a resident permit.

Before the city starts messing with the fines, I'd prefer that they put in some protections against unfair ticketing, and made the appeal process easier and more fair.

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Time volunteered in service to the city for offenders.
Or mandatory boring detention in a room.
No parking available at that short-term detention facility.
Perhaps reporting parking violations to a team of BTD ticket writers on bicycles or eBikes.

Rich and poor will pay the same.
Wasting their lives as reparation to their misbehavior.

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This proposal isn't asserting anything about the number of tickets that poor people get, or whether they get more tickets than rich people, or whether they are capable of following or apt to break the law.

It is merely acknowledging that a ticket that would not affect a rich person's finances could have major effects on a poor person's ability to make ends meet.

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the feds, debt collectors etc.

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The city of Boston makes 60 Mil @ year off Tickets (add $50 for an expired inspection sticker) Boston and Cambridge are the only cities allowed to make a profit off of Tickets. The rest are only entitled to costs, but who's counting. There are no meters in Paris because the citizens took direct action when they were installed. One is entitled to basically one "freebie" per year if you follow the small print rules.

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Where did you get the idea Paris has no parking meters?

A quick Googling shows that on-street parking costs €4/hour in the inner core, and €2.40/hour in the periphery. If you stay more than 2 hours, the hourly rate goes up.

They also have a lot of public underground garages tucked under the street in old neighborhoods.

In other words, they make it easy to park legally, and price it appropriately so spaces are available. We don't -- we have a few 2 hour meters, and the rest is permit-only with no (legal) parking for nonresidents at any price.

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So if poor people get a discount, would the city just ticket rich neighborhoods?

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If Boston would cut down on the towing of cars thing maybe this would not be as big of an issue. Other communities do not tow your car nearly as often as Boston does and when they do it is not as difficult to find the car.

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Or Boston drivers could cut down on breaking the law.

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the city allowing private tow companies to make bank off enforcement of government rules is absurd. this is much worse in somerville, because the entire city uses one company, whose owner is very close and personal friends with the mayor, and pockets all 200-500 per tow, with none of that money actually going to the city. but it's still a problem in boston.

I had my car stolen and dumped once, and it was towed (not sure where they'd dumped it) and it was really just extra great to have to pay 250$ to some super sketchy place in dot that only took cash to get it back. even better knowing none of that money was going to the city, to help.... dunno, prevent thefts, or whatever

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Why should residence make a difference? Poor nonresidents deserve the same treatment.

The city should also look into why people are getting tickets. The goal of parking relations should be to get people to follow the rules, not to issue tickets.

Are the rules confusing? I've never been able to figure out South Boston's resident restrictions which applied Mon - Fri 6 pm to 10 am. Can nonresidents park at 1 am Saturday? What about 1 am Monday?

Are the signs a mess? They just changed the signs near the Bus Terminal to add a general loading zone and move the taxi stand, but they left one of the old taxi signs between the pair of new general loading signs. Unsurprisingly, taxis and regular cars are using the wrong zones as a result.

Are the rules overly strict and serve no legitimate purpose? Why does all of Downtown, even some residential areas, need a total parking ban from 2:01 am to 7 am every night? Street cleaning once a week on each side would be fine. And 3 hours is enough -- there's no reason to snag someone stopping for a coffee at 6:30.

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Why do poor people drive today? It's not because it's cheaper, but rather because the MBTA does not go to the right places at the right times.

For example, WR gets hourly bus service on Sunday mornings - that is, one measly bus every 60 minutes. The adult (ie. non high school student) workers at Star Market or Roche Brothers are not going to take the risk of being stuck at FH for an hour if their OL train (or bus from other parts of town) gets delayed by just a few minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, buses come every 1/2 hour.

I bring this up because it's exactly these same City Councilors who emphasize "equity" and insist on adding service only to lower-income neighborhoods (while keeping or even worsening the crappy service to middle-class areas). This includes their proposals to make "select" bus lines free. They need to wake up to the reality: people do not stick around 24/7 in their home neighborhoods, and instead, need to move about the city for employment. They drive because the T does not work for them. Reducing parking fines is not the solution, especially when the same Councilors consistently call out cars and the fossil fuel industry as the worst possible evils.

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on weekend mornings, or any time for that matter.

But if you violate parking regulations (meters are free on Sundays, right?) you will get a fine. Honestly, I think enforcement needs to be increased on double parking, standing in no standing zones, blocking the box and blocking crosswalks.

Is the T schedule on Sunday horrible? Yes, headways are terrible on Sundays everywhere. But that's a different issue altogether.

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For someone who is low income and depends on a car to get to work because the T doesn't serve their needs, I can understand why parking fines can really be a burden. I'm fine with having a sliding scale based on income.

However, what I'd like to see the city do even more is to adjust parking regulations and pricing so that fewer people are getting fines. In many cases, people park illegally because there are no legal spaces available. We need more loading zones, pickup/dropoff zones, and 15 minute parking across the city. We also need to charge appropriate rates for resident permits and for public parking at meters so that there are always some spaces available. If people could actually find spaces easily, they wouldn't be as tempted to park illegally and risk getting a fine.

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What this city needs is to stop catering to drivers and invest in train/bus infrastructure so that it serves everyone. Raise the gas tax, implement congestion pricing and add more meters. The traffic/parking is not going to get any better by adding more spaces, lanes, etc. The better the infrastructure (trains, buses, bike lanes, etc) the roads would be less congested leaving them ope for people that have no other alternative than to drive.

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Allow for-profit parking share programs.
If you have a private parking spot you can charge for it as needed.

Pave the side yard. C'mon!

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"pave the side yard" the city won't even allow you to install a driveway for yourself on the side yard, unless you manage to meet suburbia-levels of clearances and setbacks, despite existing housing meeting none of those. and that gives an IMMEDIATE PARKING BENEFIT to the neighborhood by clearing up street spaces at no cost to the city!

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Paved front yards are all over Somerville - which definitely needs the parking! But Somerville is also a heat island that registers 5 - 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the metro area on an average summer day because of the lack of trees relative to concrete.

I've also heard from city planners that adding parking does nothing to relieve parking issues because all it does is encourage people who don't already drive because of parking concerns to go out and get a car.

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This is already legal and people already do it. Check out the Spot app. It's all people offering off-street parking spaces by the hour, day, week, or month.

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But I have no use for a parking app, as useful as it sounds.
I figured if a spot is empty during the day at someone’s home, finding a paying occupant with an app would be an extant thing. Thank you for that info.

Otherwise:
STOP BLOCKING THE USABLE ROADWAY WITH YOUR PRIVATE PROPERTY!
Or pay a token fee for it to cover administrative costs and please just don’t forget it is costing all of us to provide the parking spot for your machine for moving yourself and moving and storing toxic flammable liquids your personal property.
Please clean up after it if it leaks. Thank you.

If you park on a sidewalk, doesn’t your car (or light truck) get walked upon?

I don’t suffer these inconveniences, I suffer longer and fewer trips in a greatly limited range instead. I believe I am inconvenienced more, but I am biased. Travel less and save money.
I get my subsidies in public transportation, it lacks adequate butt parking at rush hour.

(Is there a standing car made yet? For helping to stay fit?)

Maybe subsidizing free transit vans on par with subsidizing private vehicle parking on public ways could be tried.

I’m glad private car ownership is declining.
Those things are both filthy and dangerous.
They must offer a lot in convenience.
I don’t know, I only dabble.
Nice to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

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I once worked part time at a school in Grove Hall. One day I parked on the street there without checking the signs and it turned out to be street cleaning time. But I only received a $50 ticket. I was honestly relieved because I've been towed for street cleaning all over the rest of Boston (JP, Chinatown, Mission Hill)and it usually means a ticket plus $100+ to get your car out of a tow lot. Then I wondered why they don't tow since that means they can't actually clean the streets. Is it a good thing they are letting people off the hook in a low income and more car dependent part of the city (no subway for miles)? Or are they neglecting basic public works?

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