Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 15, 2010

$300 resident parking sticker – Councillor Kelley

Filed under: City Council — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:04 am

In His Own Words: Craig Kelley, June 13, 2010
“I’m working on scheduling a Committee meeting to explore changing our parking fee structure, but anecdotally I have learned that for a lot of people, even a massive increase of a few hundred bucks per sticker wouldn’t change whether they own a car or not. To some extent, that makes sense – a 300 dollar a year parking permit fee (to pick a number) is relatively small bucks when compared to 1500 bucks a month or more rent, mortgage payments, the cost of owning and maintaining a car a so forth. And for many people, if not most, a car is as almost as necessary to their lifestyle (whether it be commuting to work in Reading, taking the kids to soccer in Newton or visiting friends in Quincy) as housing and food. They won’t be happy to pay that 300 bucks, but they won’t see they have much choice. For folks who truly have ‘extra’ cars, this fee may be enough to convince them to get rid of the extras, but I can’t imagine that number is big enough to have much of an impact on our parking issues.”


  1. $300 a year actually sounds reasonable, as long as we don’t have to pay the tow companies for removing our cars during those ‘tree-cutting’, ‘moving van’ days. Yeah, regular street-cleaning has enough notice, but I’ve actually been the victim of checking the street in the morning for those asinine orange barrels when I’m going to work, seeing none, and then coming home to find my car has been towed! According to the person on the other end of the phone, ‘you must not have noticed’…. Oh yeah.

    Of course, right now, I’m more then happy, all things considered, to have garage space, albeit open-air, for $8 per annum. Nice….

    Comment by Wade Smith — June 15, 2010 @ 8:04 pm

  2. Truly idiotic. Hey, Craig…take my car away, so I can’t get to work. So I stop getting paid. So I stop paying property taxes. So you get fired. Pompous, effete, do-as-I-say BS. In other words, standard fare from the City Council.

    How about a positive change around parking permits? Change the policy so that registered voters don’t have to produce the phone or utility bill, just a Mass driver’s license. Saves us the annual aggro of rounding up that paperwork, and encourages people to register to vote.

    Oops, sorry to step off into practicality. Let’s go back to debating carbon credits and Papal indulgences.

    Comment by bob metcalf — June 16, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  3. I’m genuinely confused. Is Councillor Kelley suggesting that raising the fee for a parking permit to $300 is a good idea, or a bad one?

    Comment by Cynic — June 16, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  4. It’s hard to say whether Councillor Kelley would actually support an increase of such a scale, but he has taken the step of scheduling hearings to explore changes in the parking fee structure, and it’s fairly certain that he’s not proposing any decrease in fees. He has suggested at City Council meetings that he does want to see the fees raised – maybe not on such an astronomical scale – but it’s not at all clear that he would be able to hustle up 5 votes for an increase. Maybe this is just a strategic way to get an increase to $25 by floating the $300 figure.

    It is a fact that there were many attendees of the recent “Cambridge Climate Congress” who support truly draconian measures in order to force everyone to march lockstep to the beat of their drum. One of the proposed recommendations (listed, though never voted) was to eliminate ALL on-street parking over the next 20 years.

    As I pointed out to a particularly air-headed advocate at a meeting last night, if you take away my wheels you also take away my ability to hike in the Blue Hills on weekends. In my view, advocates like these desire control, plain and simple, and they use notions like “carbon footprint” mainly to secure control over the choices people can make. Yes, let’s protect the environment and address climate issues, but let’s do it rationally and without trashing those reasonable freedoms we have all come to enjoy.

    Comment by Robert Winters — June 16, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  5. This is one of the most outrageous & disgusting things I have ever heard of, after living in Cambridge for 35 yrs. & working in Camb. for 30+ yrs. NEXT Kelly will want to tax the AIR in Cambridge. Who elected this turkey? With all the Registry Fees–Excise Taxes having increasing 300% or so in the past several yrs.–the PARKING fines having gone up from $15 or so to $30, & hrs. in some places extending to EIGHT o’clock instead of the far-more-civilized SIX o’clock, & some spaces being FIFTEEN MINUTES for a quarter, vs. the more-reasonable half hr., surely we are OVER-TAXED MORE THAN ENOUGH ALREADY. It may not even be CONSTITUTIONAL, as ONE group of people–car owners–are ALREADY heavily taxed & fined, fees that NON-car-owners DON’T have to pay. Parking in Cambridge on any given day is PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE: surely several hundred more cars try to park here than there are legal spaces for. ALL the municipalities seeking to soak & sucker car owners more & more–again, just a PART of the population–keep upping the anty, instead of finding REAL solutions to the constant budget crises. It’s ALL ABOUT REVENUE; it’s “shooting fish in a barrel”, & as it IS, LITTLE TO NO CONSIDERATION is given to Cambridge residents in this regard. “No Parking, Street Sweeping; fire hydrant; handicapped space; 3 car lengths of ‘no parking here to corner’–for NO GOOD REASON; moving van; tree murder; CONSTRUCTION=PUBLIC SPACES USURPED FOR PRIVATE PROFIT; ‘access=??,’ etc., ad naseum. I live on Ware St., just outside Harvard Square, & it is truly heinous trying to park any where near my building. On any given day or night, ALL the above-noted parking prohibitions sometimes apply. Feldon St. is blocked for YEARS due to Big Dig High School endless renovations, along with Ellery St. & other surrounding streets. Again, NO CONSIDERATION is given to area residents. MEANWHILE, there are NUMEROUS private parking lots mostly empty, the Electric Company has a huge parking lot no one can use, & HARVARD has a huge, 4-story parking lot that is ALWAYS MAINLY EMPTY. Instead of Kelly’s hideous suggestion to SCREW Cambridge resident-car-owners EVER MORE & MORE, City Government & Traffic & Parking OUGHT TO be figuring out ways to EASE THE NEIGHBORHOOD PARKING burdens/situation. FURTHER, it is DISCRIMINATORY. I have a very low income but feel I need a car, & it would be an ENORMOUS BURDEN for ME to pay this EXTRA, BOGUS TAX, whereas Area professionals wouldn’t have a problem at all, & as one commentor said, they can PROBABLY AFFORD PRIVATE PARKING ANYWAY!! This suggestion is just putrid & disgusting, & I can’t believe any one is taking it seriously. If City Gov. & Traffic & Parking IS, they should get off the Ecstacy & come back down to reality.

    Comment by mary-ellen perry — June 16, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  6. If I recall correctly the question about raising the fee a bit was brought up a sometime this year commenting that it hadn’t changed in a long time (10 years, 20 years?). I think Kelly is merely pointing out that the people he asked didn’t think a large fee was so outrageous relative to the high cost of owning a car. The question he posed was partly aimed to seeing if it would it contribute to a reduction in the number of cars on the street and it appears from his small sample the answer was no.

    I’d like to see the answer to the question as to why we need more revenue from this and what would be done with it to make alternatives to driving better e.g. more bike lanes, more enforcement of traffic laws, bus priority signalling, more bike racks,… etc.

    Comment by John Gintell — June 16, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  7. Thanks, Robert.

    This is an insane idea. As Kelley himself acknowledges, car ownership is unlikely to decrease in response to higher fees. So all that raising the fee would accomplish would be to generate revenue for the city by levying a uniform toll on every resident with a car, irrespective of assets or income. Actually, it’s worse than that, because residents in single family homes or late-model condos are far more likely to have driveways or other off-street parking than those in lower cost housing. So Kelley is suggesting raising revenue through a particularly regressive mechanism, and one without the benefit of producing any socially-desirable changes. He’d be better off raising property taxes, if the city is that strapped for cash.

    I suspect, though, that this is ultimately about development. One of Kelley’s signature issues is condo development – specifically, its role in constricting on-street parking. When he starts talking about the “parking fee structure,” I get suspicious. I wouldn’t be surprised to see, say, a proposal in the committee to grandfather in existing units at one level, and to levy a massive fee on residents of newly converted units. Otherwise, I just don’t get where he’s going with this.

    Comment by Cynic — June 16, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

  8. The City Council should stick with local issues of pressing importance to the city– namely, traffic control. So if he wanted to explore some type of system to reward residents for keeping parked cars off city streets– which is *not* the same as rewarding people for giving up their cars– then I’m fine with pondering that question. For example, we could require all new construction to include one off-street parking spot for each unit, say, or give homeowners a small tax credit for each off-street space they have.

    That will go a long way to making Cambridge look like Los Angeles, which would be a travesty, but you get my point: that the city has reason to consider ways to improve traffic flow and availability of parking. Those are local issues and it’s right for local officials to consider them.

    Where Kelley goes off-point is in trying to induce people to give up cars entirely– and clearly, according to what he’s said, that is what he wants to do. That is a much more fundamental change to how people live and work, and it is *not* a local issue. We would need to coordinate with other surrounding communities, with the MBTA and the state to improve public transit, with environmental offices trying to improve air quality, and so forth. For Cambridge to act on its own by jacking up the parking permit rates will accomplish nothing on any of those fronts, and just make residents who depend on cars $292 dollars poorer per year.

    I suspect Kelley might have started with a germ of good intention here, trying to improve the city’s traffic. But as happens so often in government, it looks like his mind then said, ‘Hmmm, you know, while we’re at it, what if we…’ and then went way beyond the City Councils’ purview. As someone else here said, this idea would do nothing but let the local government exert more control over people’s lives. We shouldn’t go there, by any means of transit.

    Comment by Matt — June 19, 2010 @ 10:15 am

  9. Robert, it’s perfectly easy to get to the Blue Hills without a car. The 238 and 240 buses, and on Saturdays the 716, run right through the reservation. Or you can take a bicycle on the Red Line and bike the 4 miles from Ashmont.

    I’d support charging $300 for parking stickers if nonresidents were also allowed to buy them, and if short-term metered parking were allowed in all permit zones.

    Comment by boblothrope — August 5, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  10. Regarding getting to the Blue Hills, it’s one thing to say that it’s possible to get there without a car, but how long would the trip likely take? My experience has been that except for some high density buses like the #70 Bus or the #1 Bus, frequency (especially on weekends) is a problem and interconnection is another problem. If the one-way trip time is 90 minutes or more and you can do it in 30 minutes with a car, why take the bus?

    Another issue is that the Blue Hills Reservation is not a point destination. If a hike begins at Houghton’s Pond or the Trailside Museum, will a bus get you close to that? I have never seen a bus on any of the east-west roads in the Blue Hills and I’ve been there hundreds of times. The bus is really only an option if you’re starting at Shea Rink in Quincy.

    Now that I’ve done my best to torpedo the notion of getting to hikes without a car, I have a request. I will soon be taking over as Chair of the Local Walks/Hikes Committee of the AMC Boston Chapter. If anyone would like to volunteer to put together a practical guide of the best ways to get to various hiking locations without a car, I would love to post it on our website: We have some of that information, but we could really use an update.

    I would also like to figure out a good way to facilitate carpooling, so if you have any good ideas, I’m all ears.

    Comment by Robert Winters — August 5, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

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