Boston City Council pushing for parking meter benefit districts to boost transportation projects

The Boston City Council is pushing for the creation of parking benefit districts, a concept that reinvests metered parking fees back into a neighborhood for a wide range of transportation-related improvements.

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Councilor Ricardo Arroyo put forward a hearing request at the body’s Wednesday meeting, where he discussed the potential for a pilot district in Roslindale Village, a shopping and dining area where parking meters will soon be added by the city.

“If we are going to create meters, which I think help move traffic along and do help, they should also take that money that comes from those meters — that are coming from folks frequenting that area or those businesses, and reinvest them into beautification projects within those areas,” Arroyo said.

If a pilot program were to be established, it could then be implemented in other districts, according to Arroyo, who represents Roslindale on the City Council and learned of the concept from Roslindale Village Main Streets representatives.

While the state authorized the use of parking benefit districts through the Municipal Modernization Act in 2016, the City of Boston has chosen not to move forward with the concept, which advocates describe as a type of parking reform that frees up high-demand curb space and benefits people paying the meter fees.

The districts have been “effectively utilized” by three other Massachusetts communities, Arlington, Brookline and Reading, “to manage parking supply and generate resources for commercial area improvements,” Arroyo said.

The bodies typically designated to manage the parking districts include main streets organizations, community planning groups and business improvement districts, he said.

“Folks in the neighborhoods who put more money into these meters should see that money directly benefit the areas in which they are placed,” Arroyo said. “The goal for this hearing is to figure out how we go about setting this up around the city, so it’s not just thrown into the … general fund and sent in different directions.”

The hearing request was largely supported by the rest of the City Council, and referred to the Committee on City Services and Innovation Technology after a brief discussion.

Councilor Gabriela Coletta, who represents East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, said her constituents often talk to her about the concept when mentioning ways to solve the “perennial issue of parking in the city.”

Councilor Liz Breadon said the districts have already been discussed as a possible parking solution in the two neighborhoods she represents, Allston and Brighton.

The matter “merits a discussion” around ways to maintain, upgrade and revitalize city streets, Breadon said, and free up curb space to ensure “someone doesn’t park their car in the main street district and leave it for the whole day.”

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