Mayor Thomas M. Menino is planning to crack down on sky high prices at private parking lots around Fenway Park, saying he will seek authority to cap fees and stop what he called the gouging.
''Someone came up to me and said, 'I just paid $100 to park,' " said Menino, who attended the Red Sox home opener Monday. ''I blew my top."
Menino said he will seek City Council approval for an ordinance to cap private parking fees, the exact rate to be determined after a meeting with the lot operators later this week.
''We are going to come up with a strategy to make sure this doesn't happen in the future," Menino said. ''My goal is to have control over the fees. This may be the market, but it's not right."
Game-day parking has long been a big-money issue near Fenway Park, where hand-lettered signs line the streets, and attendants herd vehicles into just about every available space, typically charging large fees. Gas stations, some retail centers, and a hotel dedicate spaces to fans for the day. During last fall's playoffs, Menino appealed to the operators of 23 city-licensed private lots, some of whom were charging $80 or more, asking them to voluntarily lower rates.
''The mayor didn't get the voluntary compliance" he sought, said Thomas J. Tinlin, acting commissioner of the Boston Transportation Department.
On Monday, the first home game since the Red Sox won the World Series, prices appeared to be even higher. Several lots charged $60, and Leahy's Mobil station on Boylston Street charged a Globe photographer $100 to park. When city inspectors visited the lots on Monday, he said, the operators denied overcharging.
''When our lot inspector went on scene it was, 'No, I didn't charge anyone $60,' " Tinlin said.
City officials also want to stop lots from charging more for some games than others, a practice that began during the Red Sox championship season last year.
''We need to have price certainty," Tinlin said. ''It's unfair for consumers who go to a Yankees game to have to pay $100 and those who go to a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game pay $20. The Red Sox are such a huge draw right now that the mayor wants to get ahead of this."
Lawyers are drafting a city ordinance for the mayor, Tinlin said. It would probably set a maximum price that lots can charge and include a provision that violators would lose their city licenses to operate.
It is unclear whether the city has the authority to curb fees charged by a private company. If lawyers determine that the city cannot do it by ordinance, officials will file a home-rule petition at the State House seeking permission to regulate the fees, Tinlin said.
City officials are also threatening to use whatever regulatory leverage the city has to force parking lot operators to lower game-day fees. Yesterday, Menino wrote a letter to owners, urging them to charge fair parking rates.
''I am aware of the concept of marketing and pricing for supply and demand," he wrote. ''However, large increases in pricing adversely impact the surrounding businesses and places the economic vitality of the Fenway area in jeopardy."
Today, a team of workers from the city's Fire, Transportation, and Inspectional Services departments will visit the parking lots to make sure they are complying with the terms of their licenses.
The licenses have not been viewed as a powerful enforcement tool in the past, because they are issued primarily to regulate the number of vehicles allowed in a lot and the information included on parking lot signs.
But Tinlin said the city can find ways to punish parking lot operators. For example, he said, operators could have their licenses revoked or suspended if they charge higher prices on game days than the everyday rates listed on their signs. Gas stations that cram vehicles onto their lots on game days could also find themselves under scrutiny for exceeding limits on the amount of flammable material that can be on the site.
''We will be traveling in a team, checking on these sites for capacity, flammable liquid, or zoning violations, and we will be shutting down lots we see that are not in compliance with their licenses, no questions asked," Tinlin said.
The owner of Leahy's Mobil could not be reached for comment.
A worker at VIP Parking said his lot charged $50 for Monday's game and maintained that he knew of no place other than Leahy's that charged $100. Another owner said he charged a fair rate to customers willing to pay big money for other game necessities.
''Look around," said Walid Geha, who owns a
He said he charged fans $40 to park Monday, the price that is posted on his sign. ''If you post $40 and charge $100, it's not right. I'm against it. But I've been charging $40. It's on the wall."
Jordan Flower, who works on Van Ness Street, said charging $100 is ''pushing it."
''I don't think there's any set system," Flower said. ''It's basically how greedy you are. It's not based on any numbers; it's just based on greed. It's good to hear we were within the threshold."
Last season, he said, his lot charged $30 for regular games and $40 during the playoffs. ''I think $30 is pretty fair," he said. ''When I first started working here in September, I thought it was outrageous. Then I realized it was common around here."
Councilor John Tobin said families can barely afford to attend games anymore.
''I agree with Mayor Menino," Tobin said. ''There are a couple of spots last year during the playoffs that charged $60 and $80 to park. . . . It's so unnecessary. I don't fault someone for trying to make a buck, but to just crush people. I'm a gigantic Red Sox fan, but perhaps it's time to have a minor league team play within the city limits, so that families can go and enjoy games."
But for Carl Nagy-Koechlin, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation, a deterrent to driving to the ballpark is not a bad thing.
''Most people think it should be easier to get to the ballpark by mass transit and harder by driving," he said.
Still, Nagy-Koechlin acknowledges there should be a limit on the costs and that a cap might be the answer.
''I think it's outrageous that people are being charged 100 bucks to park in a lot," he said.
Red Sox spokesman Charles Steinberg said he did not know that any parking lots overcharged fans attending Monday's game. The Red Sox own two lots, but he did not know what the team charged.
Globe correspondent Scott Goldstein contributed to this report.