Boston’s parking freeze needs to be thawed

This Letter to the Editor appeared in the June 14, 2012 edition of Boston Business Journal.

To the editor:
The viewpoint expressed in your recent article titled “Seaport Squeeze” piqued my interest. I find it worrisome that the Seaport area will soon transition from servicing commuter parking for downtown Boston, to an area servicing parking for its new residents and businesses.

We should all be a bit more concerned about the results of this impending transition. The parking freeze was initially proposed in the early 1970s for downtown Boston and Logan Airport. Subsequently, parking freezes were adopted in Cambridge, East Boston and other parts of Boston. With the growth of the office market over the past three decades, many workers have certainly taken advantage of Boston’s mass transit system, but those who commute by car benefit from the low-cost parking in the undeveloped Seaport area.

With a parking inventory freeze in the Seaport, long-term availability of satellite surface parking is at odds with the construction of high-rise apartments and offices. As the amount of commuter parking diminishes, the stress on businesses in the Financial District, to keep their commuting employees, increases. Mass transit cannot absorb all these commuters. At some point, companies that have relied upon employees that commute to work may be forced to look elsewhere for office space.

There are two areas that need attention. Firstly, Boston businesses are highly dependent on the MBTA and the legislature needs to act, not just with a short-term fix, but with a multiyear plan to reduce the T’s burdensome debt, and increase the long-deferred investments to enhance, expand, and improve ridership capacity and satisfaction.

Secondly, a myriad of programs have been implemented nationwide to reduce parking and transportation demand that do not depend on freezes. Even the city of Cambridge has abandoned its parking freeze approach and implemented a Vehicle Trip Reduction programs to address parking, traffic and air-quality issues.

Maybe the time has come to take reevaluate the city’s parking freeze policy, which is one of the very few left in this country.

David Begelfer
CEO of NAIOP Massachusetts