4.7 min readBy Published On: November 3rd, 2015Categories: Features9 Comments on Parking Crazy

Parking IS an issue.  A big, fat, giant issue!

On Monday, Garrett Quinn from Boston Magazine wrote a piece about South Boston and our crazy obsession with parking .  Actually he wrote “a mind-numbingly dumb obsession with parking.”  (Yes, Southie, he called us dumb.) He went on to call out the group of “miracle-workers” who banned together to form a real estate development group that purchased  Mary’s Garden on Old Harbor Street to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.  He also called out yours truly and scoffed at my outrage in the post I wrote about the city reserving public spots for car-sharing companies like Zip Car.

It’s easy for outsiders to refer to us as dumb and use a condescending tone like, “Do you believe these people and complaints about parking?  Cleary, they haven’t read Shoup.”   And why is it always the people who are concerned with NIMBYism, never seem to live in that neighborhood?

What is this Shoup they speak of?   For those of you who have a life and don’t know what Shoup is, Donald Shoup is a 77 year-old professor of urban planning at UCLA and is evidently a parking guru.  He argues that free or overly-cheap parking is actually bad for cities because it encourages more people to drive, making it difficult to find a space.  Therefore, you should charge a higher price for more desirable/busier parking spots/blocks.  If you recall, Mayor Marty Walsh is considering using this method with metered spots in busy areas like Newbury Street and Kenmore Square.  I must admit, I do agree that South Boston’s business districts would benefit from this theory.  If it costs $20 an hour to park in front of the Paramount, you might walk instead.  Another great aspect of his theory, is all money raised from those meters would go directly to city services like power washing sidewalks and snow removal in these business districts.  Makes complete sense.

Shoup’s Utopian view for residential parking is where I’m still skeptical. His theory is, charge more for a resident permit.  Currently, we pay $0. By comparison, San Francisco pays $110 (evidently San Francisco still has major parking problems).  People argue that our extremely high real estate taxes pay for this free permit.  Shoup would argue, charge as much as people will pay.  It’s called supply and demand.  Makes sense, right?  But until we actually implement a parking policy that has been “Shoup-tified” – then Southie is still left with a parking crisis.   

The city has a hard enough time enforcing non-resident/out of state plates for violating resident only parking rules. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a Vermont plate on my block for a week without ANY tickets.  Without enforcement, how do we expect people to purchase an expensive resident permit when they are not even bothering to get a free one.  So until something is done, our parking spots will be filled with cars and we will remain in the grips of a very serious parking situation.  End of story.

It is naively optimistic to think that people will just give up their cars.  The hope is people will give up their cars – maybe out of sure frustration at this rate but there has been no evidence presented in our neighborhood.  Just theories.  Less cars means less traffic, more parking, and it’s better for the environment.  Sure, there are people that will give up their cars.  My father Richie Dahill, a 70 year old life long resident and retired State Trooper gave up his car a few years back.  I would love to give up my car.  I have kids – kids who play hockey and have after school actives in other neighborhoods across the city and beyond. I believe a family in the city needs a car.

People will not give up their cars with a broken down system like the MBTA, either.  If it can’t handle the current population of commuters waiting in crowds for the #7, then how do we expect it to handle more people. The buses are full sometimes by the second stop. Not to mention, the bus schedule is completely unreliable with some buses not showing up at all.  At a recent community meeting, the MBTA was asked if there could be more buses to which they replied, “No. There physically aren’t enough buses.”  

But the city continues to develop more condos, which equals more residents, more cars, more traffic, more people taking the MBTA and less parking.  Yes, I’ll admit, we South Bostonians like to complain about parking. It’s because it’s a quality of life issue that affects most of us daily. Lack of parking spots is the direct result of development and an area becoming too densely populated. So until these cars start vanishing, this parking crisis is a reality and even Shoup’s theories can’t change what we all see.

Before we approve more large scale developments, before we take away parking spots for Zip Car, maybe we should work on fixing the MBTA and solving our current parking situation.  Reserving public spots for Zip Car, is sort of like putting the cart before the horse.  How about trying angled parking and enforcement of parking scofflaws and handicapped placard abusers?  Let’s start there and see if that helps.

You can spout off your facts, show me data from different cities, quote Shoup in a snarky tone and try and convince me that this parking crisis is all in my head, but it isn’t going to change the fact that I’m going to have to search for 45 minutes for a parking spot tonight after my boys’ hockey practice.  


  1. Still driving around the block looking for a spot November 3, 2015 at 10:27 pm
    Another contributor to the increasing number of cars parking on the street is that many of these developments build parking spots but then require the buyer of that luxury condo to pay a luxury price for a parking spot. Some folks can’t or don’t want to do this. Just because the developer tells you there are 8 spots for 4 units doesn’t mean much at this point.
  2. Hi November 3, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Why does the narrative in the posts here a lot more combative than unmoderated Twitter?

  3. Anonymous November 3, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Another moron who is not even from the City of Boston trying to tell others how to live our lives. What is this? North Korea?

  4. Jon Ramos November 4, 2015 at 12:51 am

    I've read Shoup, and I have a life.  He is literally famous for his views on Urban planning.  In the same way that Frederick Law Olmsted is famous. (designer of Boston Common, Emerald Neclace, & Central Park in New York).  Just because YOU havn't heard of him doesn't make him less famous for being a great mind in modern urban planning.

  5. Anne November 4, 2015 at 2:25 am

    I believe that Mr. Quinn cannot relate to our parking frustrations because he lives in Cambridge with a DRIVEWAY. He couldn't possibly understand. 

  6. Anonymous November 5, 2015 at 2:15 am

    Yes, who has time to learn a little bit more about how the world works when Real Housewives is on??? They talk about real quality of life issues on that show! Maybe if you're gonna complain about an issue, it'd be better to be informed about it, rather than criticize those who are informed about it.



  7. Anonymous November 5, 2015 at 10:00 am

    So when they purchase the condo they have to pay more for the spot that they have purchased with the condo? That cant be true and if it is i would try legal action.that is not rt!

  8. EconMan November 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    "our extremely high real estate taxes pay for this free permit"

    With the Residential Tax Exemption, real estate taxes are actually extremely low.  Businesses absorb most the real estate tax burden in Boston.  So you're not paying for parking with RE tax.

    The parking issue is simple economics; if something is free people will use it.  If it costs a $1, a few people won't use it. If it costs $1000, alot of people will think hard and long on whether it is worth it.  

    Currently, there is no incentive not to own a car and park it on the street undriven for six months, which is part of the problem.

  9. Rob November 5, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    People keep misunderstanding this issue. It's not just in Southie, it's everywhere in the city and in every big city. No one is saying all people will give up their cars – no one. No one is saying that all families can get by on Zipcar and the T. Some people and families do need cars absolutely and always will. All people are saying is that not all planning needs to assume that every resident will be a family of four owning SUVs. There are more and more residents who do not want or need cars, so they don't need parking spots. You can build a diverse housing stock that accounts for that. And you can price on-street parking appropriately so people who need a spot will pay for and have one, and those that don't want or need one won't pay for one. It's really not that complicated and can work to everyone's benefit, since after all it's to the benefit of all people, drivers and non-drivers, to have less cars on the road, so it shouldn't be this controversial or heated. Your ideas to me about enforcement and angled parking seem reasonable and should be tried, but so should Zipcar and other measures – they're not mutually exclusive.

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