THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

To boost its parking revenues, T plans to make paying easier

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By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / January 11, 2011

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The MBTA said yesterday that it plans to offer new, easier ways for commuters to pay at parking lots across the state, such as setting up a website that offers monthly passes.

The program will begin in February and will be based at the MBTA’s website, www.mbta.com. The passes are $70 and can be bought with a credit card.

Before the announcement yesterday, the Globe reported that MBTA officials have started to more aggressively enforce the collection of fees at T parking lots and will track down scofflaws who repeatedly cheat the system.

Approximately 66 of the T’s 100-plus lots — with 24,546 spaces — have a self-pay honor system that hundreds of people have taken advantage of without paying, officials said. The T has lost about $1 million revenue as a result, at a time when it is facing a $100 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year, the agency said.

“It’s our obligation at the MBTA to recover every dollar we can,’’ MBTA General Manager Rich Davey said yesterday during a news conference at South Sta tion. “One million is a lot of money given the budget deficit we have, and this is a way to capture revenue.’’

Under the honor system, commuters must stuff dollar bills into a marked space on a payment board. The marked spaces on the board correspond with the numbered parking spaces.

Davey said yesterday that the payment method is outdated and that the website will allow commuters to buy a monthly pass. They can then place the pass on their dashboard.

The MBTA also runs a pay-by-phone system that is used by about 30 percent of the customers who park at the lots, Davey said.

“The bottom line is the current system we have is old and antiquated,’’ Davey said, adding in a statement: “This new customer service makes it easer than ever to pay for parking.’’

The MBTA has collected more than $22,000 in overdue parking fees since it started to track down scofflaws and send them warning letters. Typically, scofflaws are sent a note telling them the fee has been unpaid, and they are fined an additional $1, though many still do not pay. The new letters warn that a scofflaw’s car can be towed if the fees and fines continue to go unpaid.

Davey said his agency is targeting the people who repeatedly cheated the system. For instance, one scofflaw refused to pay more than 200 times, he said. “Frankly, some are just avoiding their obligation to pay,’’ Davey said.

Also, the MBTA is considering increasing the fines for scofflaws, possibly up to $15, to resemble more costly municipal parking violations. It was not known yesterday whether the agency needs legislative approval to do that. MBTA lawyers are reviewing what is allowed under law.

Davey said his agency will continue to use the authority it does have by enforcing existing rates and, if necessary, towing.

“That was all in our power to do, and we didn’t do it,’’ he said.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.