Parking at nearly any metered space in Brookline just got a little more expensive.
Selectmen last night approved a sweeping parking reform package designed to deter meter hogs while bringing in $1 million in new revenue for the town. The changes include higher parking meter rates across town, extended meter hours and special $22 game-day rates for Red Sox fans.
The new rates will go into effect April 1, though the longer meter hours at some spaces will not be enforced in the first week. Officials say drivers who fail to pay the meter after 6 p.m. would receive a warning instead of a ticket in that first week.
Last night’s vote came after two years of study and countless public meetings and presentations. By last night’s hearing, no one showed up to oppose the measure, despite several controversial components.
Selectwoman Jesse Mermell, the board’s lead advocate for parking reform, said the “largely vacant crowd” proved that the town’s Transportation Board and Parking Committee had done their homework.
“I think it’s due to a lot of legwork,” she said.
Though the package includes rate hikes across town, its most controversial measure isaimed at preventing Red Sox fans from taking up valuable parking spaces in front of St. Mary’s Station businesses during home games at Fenway Park. Under the approved changes, all meters in the St. Mary’s area will be run until 10 p.m. on game nights and a two-hour limit would be enforced at curbside spaces—those directly in front of Beacon Street business—to discourage fans from parking there for the full length of the game.
Instead, Red Sox fans will be able to park at spaces on the median of Beacon Street and pay special game-night rates, which will be set at $1 for the first and second hour and $10 for the third and fourth hour, for a total of $22 for the game. Transportation officials say that rate is similar to those charged in private lots around Fenway Park.
Michael Sandman, chair of Brookline’s Transportation Board, said St. Mary’s businesses have long complained that they get a rush of business before the Red Sox take the field, but struggle to attract business during the game because all nearby parking spaces are already taken up by fans at Fenway.
"On nights when there are Red Sox games, every legal parking space is full and some of it spills over into the sides streets, and it becomes impossible for someone who wants to go to dinner at 7 o’clock in lower Beacon Street to find a space," Sandman said last night.
But some selectmen believe even the new rates don’t go far enough. Selectman Dick Benka argued that the town’s $25 parking tickets may not be enough to deter Red Sox fans from hogging Brookline’s curbside spaces when many private lots charge even more, and suggested Brookline police should consider handing out even higher tickets in St. Mary’s Station on game days.
“As we go forward with this we really ought to start thinking about the ticket amounts,” he said. “It almost doesn’t pay to put money in the meter if all you get is a $25 ticket.”
Though the new Red Sox parking rates have drawn the most criticism over the last two years, the proposal also includes changes that would affect nearly every metered parking space in Brookline. Under the changes, meters at the most heavily used spaces will continue running until 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., and hourly rates at nearly all meters will increase from 75 cents to $1.
The town released revenue projections last night showing that only a small slice of the $1 million in new parking revenue in the package would come from the game day rates. According to a memo from the Town Administrator’s Office, officials expect to collect $35,000 annually from game day parking, $215,000 from extended meter hours and $750,000 from a town wide meter rate increase.
“I think that does put into perspective people’s speculation that were going to make all this money from the Red Sox,” said Selectwoman Betsy DeWitt. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
Sandman said the longer meter hours are meant to keep spaces open for customers in Brookline business districts and to discourage parkers from plugging the meter just before it shuts off and staying until the early morning. The meters with longer hours will be marked with a red top or nearby signage once the changes go into effect.
Officials say the new $1 rate is in line with recent increases in neighboring communities and would put Brookline below Boston, in line with Somerville and Cambridge, and above Newton in terms of meter rates.
Extend meter hours to 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.
Brookline Avenue, Washington Street near Washington Square, the Centre Street parking lot, and Beacon Street from St. Mary’s Street to just west of Coolidge Corner and in the Washington Square area.
Increase hourly rate from 75 cents to $1.
Nearly all parking meters. Select meters would retain a rate of 50 cents per hour.
In St. Mary’s Station, extend meter hours to 10 p.m. during Red Sox homes games and impose a two-hour limit on curbside spaces to make more spaces available for customers of local businesses.
Curbside parking spaces between St. Mary’s Street and Hawes Street.
In St. Mary’s station, extend meter hours until 10 p.m. during Red Sox home games and increase rates on median spaces to $10 per hour for the third and fourth hour after 6 p.m. There would be no time limit.
Median parking spaces between St. Mary’s Street and Hawes Street.
Extend long-term meters to 11 hours instead of 10 hours so help commuters avoid ticketing.
All long-term meters, which are located primarily on Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue, and in lots near the D Line.
Though selectmen approved all rate changes requested by the Transportation Board, they tabled a measure that would have given the board more authority to adjust rates on its own. The Transportation Board currently has the authority to adjust meter hours, but must seek selectmen approval from the Board of Selectmen to change meter rates.
Sandman had argued that creating a rate “cap” of $2 per hour would give the board leeway to “experiment” with rates in different areas. Selectmen, however, have been reluctant to cede control of meter rates.
“It is a big deal to people and I think it is something this board needs to step up and pay attention to and take the responsibility for,” Selectwoman Nancy Daly said.
Selectmen Benka offered a compromise that would give the Transportation Board the authority to adjust rates at some meters used primarily by out of towners—like those adjacent to the Longwood Medical Area—while leaving most meters within the jurisdiction of the Board of Selectmen.
Selectmen will likely consider the rate ceiling again at their next meeting.