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Parking meter hikes tested in Back Bay, Seaport

Clayton Johnson from Dorchester paid the meter on Newbury Street. The Boston Globe

They grumbled.

They parked.

And then they paid.

Discerning drivers greeted the first day of higher meter rates in the Back Bay and the Seaport District with a mix of contempt, denial, and sunny optimism Tuesday.

“It’s still cheaper than a garage,” reasoned Sophia Goumenos, a 30-year-old Quincy resident after quibbling over the $3.75 an hour it will now costs to shop on Newbury Street.

She still paid to park — using the city’s parking app — and went on with her shopping.

The higher rates, affecting 1,650 meters in the Back Bay and 591 in the Seaport District, aim to help city officials better manage on-street parking, particularly in Boston’s bustling shopping and dining centers.


During the yearlong pilot, meter rates will spike from $1.25 per hour to $3.75 per hour in the Back Bay and will eventually fluctuate up to $4 per hour in the Seaport District, depending on demand, officials said.

Kris Carter, cochairman of the mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, which helped launched the pilot program, said it will take a few months before officials will be able to fully assess how well the higher meter rates fared.

“It takes us a while to actually collect the data and work out any kinks as well,’’ he said.

He said the city team, including Transportation Department officials, tried to ensure a smooth transition in the two neighborhoods.

“Everything, from what we can tell, went really smoothly,’’ said Carter, who also encouraged the public to offer feedback on the effort on Boston.gov.

Boston’s Performance Parking pilot is part of national trend that uses real-time pricing and performance data to move drivers in and out of parking spots.

New meter rates affect 1,650 meters in the Back Bay and 591 in the Seaport District. David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Other cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., have been raising meter rates to up to $6 an hour in certain locations — an effort to limit the number of people who park at meters all day.


Boston officials announced their initiative last month, saying they want to boost turnover at the meter, reduce the number of drivers circling the block to seek spots, and stop motorists who would rather pay a parking fine than leave their on-street spot.

The higher rates could also steer drivers to the city’s numerous — and expensive — garages or other modes of transportation such public transit or walking, Carter added. Parking garages can cost as much at $40 per day in those neighborhoods.

“Our goal is to make the travel experience for the people of Boston easier,’’ he said.

Councilor Bill Linehan, whose South Boston district includes the Seaport, said the city should also consider extending the hours at parking meters at many locations. He said his office has not heard much from residents about the higher rates and he is in a “wait-and see” mode on the new effort.

“I’m glad it’s a pilot program. I’m interested to see how it works. I’m looking to see the feedback,’’ Linehan said.

Vicki C. Smith, chairwoman of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, said she has been urging the city to take a “holistic approach” to the neighborhood’s parking issue that includes visitors. So far, she said, her group has not heard much from residents about the higher meter rates.

On Newbury Street on Tuesday, there was a glimmer of hope that the higher rates might free up more parking spots.


Paul Mahoney of Boston, who works in real estate development, said he usually circles the block when he visits Newbury Street every couple of weeks. The high garage rates simply aren’t worth it for less than an hour, he said.

“Hopefully it’ll make it easier to get a meter when I need it,” Mahoney said. “It’s really hard to spend 45 minutes looking to stop at a place for 45 minutes.”

Kathy Mazzola, a Natick resident who sells hair products and pays more than $10 a day on Boston parking meters, seemed reluctant but said she will pay the higher rate.

“I have to use the meters,” said Mazzola, who kept checking her parking app to make sure her meter did not expire. “I’m on Newbury Street four days a week.”

In the Seaport District, Chandra Ortiz, 45, pulled into a spot, grateful one was available. She used to come to the Seaport more often, but parking had gotten inconvenient and costly. The meter rate hike would primarily benefit people with money, she added.

“There’s something to having 25 cents last 30 minutes instead of 10 minutes,” Ortiz said. “It makes you feel like there are the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ ”

Nora Rodriques, 22, a waitress at Gather, said she can’t afford to move her car every two hours, and is used to returning to it to find a swath of orange tickets stuck on her windshield.


“I’ve gotten the boot three times,” said Rodriques, who lives in South Boston. “It’s so expensive and there are never any spots. People can only typically get a spot if they come super early or park very far away and walk.”

Maybe she should just take the bus, she said aloud.

But she’s a “diva,” she said, who would prefer not to, especially when she leaves work late at night.

Paul Mahoney of Boston paid a parking meter on Newbury Street.David L Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra. Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.