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Boston To Developers: Build Fewer New Parking Spaces04:30
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If you've ever spent time looking for an open parking meter in Boston or for one of those few spots without a meter or for a parking garage that doesn't say "full," you'll be interested in this: The Boston Redevelopment Authority is cutting back on requirements that developers create new parking spaces when they build.

To discuss the BRA's decision, its director Peter Meade joined Morning Edition Friday.


Bob Oakes: Considering how hard it can be to sometimes find a parking space in Boston, this feels a little counterintuitive, so explain for us if you would.

"The growth in our city is coming from young people ... and 58 percent of them walk to work, bike to work, or take public transportation."

Peter Meade, BRA director

Peter Meade: It is counterintuitive. If you look at the trends in our city, there's growth in the city, but we have fewer people with cars. That's a fact. The growth in our city is coming from young people, people 20 to 24, and 58 percent of them walk to work, bike to work, or take public transportation. And there are places where we and the city and the BRA have demanded a number of parking spaces that are going totally unused. And with the money it costs to construct a parking space — and that space — we're looking to have more open space. We're also encouraging more people to walk to work, to bike to work and take public transportation so we have a city that's a healthier city.

So, let me be clear about this: What are you saying then to people, Boston residents who live in neighborhoods where parking is very tight, who can spend a lot of time every day — late in the afternoon, for example, when they get home from work — searching for a space? What are you telling those people specifically?

It depends on how close they are to public transportation, frankly. And if you look at what's happening, we have forced developers to create parking spaces that are going unused. That's not smart planning; that's not smart construction. That's not smart for anybody. It costs more, and it produces less for us. But if you live close to very good public transportation, then I think you can see that it does work.

But is this forcing people then to take public transportation or to look for the bike sharing program? Is that the intent here?

Well, I don't think we can force people to do it. What we're doing is reacting to people doing it. The facts are that the young people who are the surge of the population growth in the city have fewer cars — interestingly, fewer licenses as well. And they care deeply about their carbon footprint. And so a lot of them instinctively are doing something that people in my generation didn't do, and that is they don't have a car and they feel no need for a car. Or they rent a car when they need it, and they take public transportation, walk or bike to work.

Let me understand the ratio here, if you can put one out there. I saw the quote in The Boston Globe this morning, "We don’t need a parking space for every bedroom in every new building." What do you mean by that? And how much parking do we need for new construction in areas where there is public transportation?

Cleveland Circle, for example, is fed by three Green lines. If you look at North Station, you have Green Line, Orange Line and all the rail lengths there. So when places like that — I think you look differently than you do at a place like Dorchester Heights in South Boston where you're not that close to public transportation, and you'd need parking spaces there.

Just last month in the Back Bay, a pair of parking spaces sold at auction for $560,000. Isn't this policy change by the BRA a little like saying parking space is just for the wealthy?

"We are reacting to a number of people — some of whom are very wealthy — who don’t take a car, don’t buy a car, don’t park a car."

Peter Meade, BRA director

We're certainly not saying that, but we are reacting to a number of people — some of whom are very wealthy — who don't take a car, don't buy a car, don't park a car, but take public transportation, bike or walk to work. If you look in the Back Bay, there are a significant number of people who, in fact, take public transportation to work — in part because parking's been priced out, but in part because that's certainly the kind of people they want to be. And [not] forcing developers to build parking spaces that aren't used when that money could be used for more affordable housing, more market-rate housing is just where we think we need to be.

This program aired on July 5, 2013.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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