THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Starts & Stops

Hub parking rates idle at No. 2 in US

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Noah Bierman
August 3, 2008

Boston's notoriously expensive parking rates won an ignominious honor last month. The city commands the nation's second-highest monthly parking rate - $460 - trailing only New York. Its daily rate, $33, comes in at a relative bargain: third place after New York ($35-$40 depending on the area) and Honolulu ($44).

The survey by Colliers international property consultants validates what locals and residents know well. The daily parking rate downtown costs about the same as a lobster dinner. Still, it's surprising that Bostonians pay even more than parkers in San Francisco ($28 daily and $350 monthly), Los Angeles ($27.25/$196), and Chicago ($30/$310).

It could be worse. Londoners pay $68 per day, or a staggering $1,167 per month to keep cars downtown, not including a hefty congestion charge every time they enter the central city. Another good reason we had a revolution.

It could be better. It costs only $45 a month to park in Reno, the second least expensive in the country. But on balance, is that really better? You have to live in Reno to get that rate.

Chalk it up as another reason Boston needs high quality public transportation.

Even if the price of gas goes back down, who can afford to park?

Transit projects approved
Several major transit projects took a step forward last week when the federal Environmental Protection Agency approved the state's commitments to undertake several rail projects, many agreed upon as a result of the Big Dig.

They include the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, design preparation for a tunnel connection between the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Red Line and Blue Line, additional stops on the Fairmount commuter line that give better access to Dorchester and Mattapan residents, and more parking spaces for commuter rail users.

Massachusetts promised the upgrades as part of a 1990 legal settlement with the Conservation Law Foundation over the Big Dig's environmental impacts. A suit was filed in 2005 to force the Commonwealth to follow through.

EPA approval is another sign the state will have to move forward, said Phil Warburg, the Conservation Law Foundation's president. "It gives the state's plan the force of federal law," he said.

The Red Line-Blue Line connector has the longest way to go because the state did not promise to build it, only to design it. Warburg said it's necessary to connect the two lines to bring the region's transit system into the century.

Cellphone reception
Could the cellphone dead zone finally exorcised in the Big Dig? It appears to be getting closer. But we're not yet in cellphone nirvana.

A Globe reporter completed a call as he traveled south in the Tip O'Neill Tunnel last week. The reporter tried again Thursday, in both directions, and it did not work. Other drivers are probably noticing similar reception.

The project, being worked on by a joint venture of four cellphone companies, is 77 percent complete, said Mac Daniel, Turnpike Authority spokesman. Overall, workers have laid down 95 percent of the fiber along the tunnel walls.

A spokeswoman for the cellphone companies - Sprint Nextel, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon - said in an e-mail that any cellphone reception in the tunnels is incidental at this point.

"At this time, construction is ongoing and the communications system is not operational," spokeswoman Kristin Wallace wrote. "But customers may sometimes experience limited wireless coverage from existing cell sites adjacent to the tunnels."

The cell companies have consistently declined to give a timeline for the long-delayed project. When service finally comes, not everyone will cheer. Many drivers have written me in the past with dire concerns that Boston's wild drivers will get even scarier if they drive through the tunnels with cellphones up to their ears.

Please send complaints, comments, or story ideas to starts@globe.com. The column and a listing of major road closures and other transportation advisories can be found at to www.boston.com/starts.

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