Yvonne Abraham

The MBTA isn’t making any friends with parking fee hikes

Last week, the MBTA announced a parking fee increase for dozens of high-demand stations.
Globe Staff/File
Last week, the MBTA announced a parking fee increase for dozens of high-demand stations.

Oh, how I love the Blue Line.

Compared with the rest of the T system, the route that runs from Revere to downtown Boston is a gem. The stations and rail cars are sleek and newish, unlike the ancient relics on the poor Orange Line. Trips are rarely beset by the catastrophes that plague the basket-case that is the Red Line.

I even love the Wonderland parking garage. Well, not the part where I have to drive up through all the levels, hoping there will be space on the roof because I’ve arrived after 9 a.m. If there are no spots, it means a time-consuming drive to Beachmont, but if the roof delivers, that glass elevator ride down, with its breathtaking view of a sparkling ocean, is a highlight of my day. The line is a testament to how much better the whole system can be, with enough vision and resources.


Last week, the MBTA announced a parking fee increase at Wonderland from $5 per day, to $7. It’s part of a plan to change pricing at dozens of stations to coax commuters away from the ones in high demand, and toward those with empty spaces every day. So, the thinking goes, some of the folks who fill the Wonderland garage early and don’t like the rate hike, will find another way to get to the station or choose another station altogether — like the commuter rail station in Lynn, where parking fees are going down, or Beachmont, where they’ll stay the same.

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I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t have other good choices, so I’ll pay the seven bucks for my beloved Wonderland.

But if I were at the mercy of the rest of the accursed MBTA system, I’d be mighty mad about paying a penny more. For the privilege of enduring daily misery, Red Line commuters who park at the Braintree or Quincy Adams stops — both undergoing construction — will now have to pay $10 per day, up from $7. Until desperately needed new rail cars arrive in the next few years, the MBTA should be paying them.

As the MBTA board considered the new parking fees last week, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack worried that the rate hikes, especially at those Red Line stations, were too aggressive, and would make some fed-up commuters abandon the T altogether. No kidding.

All of this would be easier to take if Governor Charlie Baker was willing to raise more revenue to give commuters who balk at higher parking fees better alternatives: improved bus services to T stops, or all the way downtown, for example. Or desperately needed repairs for roads and bridges that would make those bus rides less soul-destroying. But Baker is allergic to new revenue — except when it comes to raising costs for T riders, of course.


It would be easier to take, too, if the pain were spread more evenly. Traffic congestion is as big a problem as breakdowns on the T, with serious environmental costs. But the governor “has a fetish about reforming the MBTA, and he doesn’t approach the roads in the same way,” said Chris Dempsey, head of the advocacy coalition Transportation for Massachusetts.

The car is still king around here. As Dempsey’s group has pointed out, MBTA fares rose 350 percent between 1991 and 2016, but the gas tax went up only 14 percent over the same period.

That seems unlikely to change any time soon. But at the very least, the state should apply the same congestion-pricing approach to tolling as it’s taking with parking. For example, MassDOT could lower Tobin Bridge tolls for drivers who avoid rush hour, and raise them at times of day when traffic is glacial. As Dempsey points out, thinning morning traffic on the Tobin means not just better commutes for drivers, but more reliable buses, too.

It also means folks who take the T aren’t bearing the burdens of our antiquated and underfunded transportation system alone. Even riders on the delightful Blue Line shouldn’t have to do that.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.