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Boston considers rise in parking fines

Neighborhoods are target of increase

By June Q. Wu
Globe Correspondent / June 15, 2010

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The Menino administration proposed a hike in parking fines yesterday across most of the city, a move officials say could generate an additional $600,000 in annual revenue and could deter people from impeding traffic flow.

Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin testified before the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations that current parking fines have been ineffective in reducing the number of parking violations over the past few years.

The proposal would increase parking fines from $15 to $25 in what the Transportation Department calls Zone B, which includes Dorchester, Roxbury, East Boston, South Boston, the Fenway, Mattapan, Roslindale, and Hyde Park.

“Fifteen dollars is not sending the right message,’’ said Tinlin. “We are hoping that these increases will send a message and change driver behavior.’’

In 2009 alone, the city issued 23,000 no-parking tickets and 79,000 tickets for overstaying time limits in Zone B, Tinlin said.

Parking fines in Zone A — which includes downtown, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, and Charlestown — will remain at $55 for no-parking zones and $25 for parking spaces with time limits.

Given that the number of Zone B parking violations has remained stagnant in recent years, transportation officials fear that violators have been “abusing the neighborhood streets to get around the system,’’ Tinlin said.

Tinlin suspects that many violators have discovered that paying the $15 fine is actually cheaper than parking in garages downtown, which charge up to $40 a day.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Wednesday, and Tinlin estimates that if approved, the change will take effect in July.

Councilor Maureen Feeney, who chairs the committee that will review the plan, said the proposal would enhance public safety by discouraging drivers from blocking handicap access ramps, for example.

“There’s a reason we want to keep no-parking locations open,’’ Feeney said in an interview. “It’s really about traffic flow.’’

Tinlin added that he believes increasing fines by $10 will prompt violators to think twice before parking illegally.

“These tickets are all easily avoidable,’’ Tinlin said. “If you don’t want to pay, park legally.’’

Of the dozen car owners interviewed yesterday, only one, Tinlin, said he has never received a parking ticket. (His wife, however, cannot say the same, he said.)

The rest expressed frustration in finding parking downtown. Some rolled their eyes and used adjectives ranging from difficult to insane.

“It’s always tough to find parking,’’ George Mellor, 50, said as he stood near City Hall. “There are never enough meters, and garages are too expensive.’’

Mellor, a Plymouth resident and president of CBE Technologies, said he racked up an estimated $400 in parking fines last year. “I guess I have to try and be careful,’’ he said.

One East Boston resident having lunch on Boston Common had a more extreme story to tell.

In the span of 18 months, Crystal, who did not want her last named to be published, said she had amassed $3,500 in parking fines, averaging two to three tickets a week.

“It was horrible,’’ said Crystal, 25, a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “You could buy a new car with that money.’’

She said she has given up on driving in Boston and recently donated her car to Kars-4-Kids.

“Forget about it,’’ she said of trying to park downtown.

Davis Bruce, a Cape Cod lawyer, recalls taking his son to Boston Medical Center for surgery two months ago. Out of quarters, he left his car at a meter for only 10 minutes before he was ticketed.

“They’re all over the place,’’ Bruce said.

June Q. Wu can be reached at jwu@globe.com.

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