You could see this one coming down the Pike.
Environmentalists who yearn to turn us into Sweden have been pushing the concept of a “congestion fee” for years, and now it finally may become a reality for already beleaguered Boston motorists.
A “green ribbon” commission, a euphemism for rich do-gooders who know what’s best for us, is recommending Boston slap a five buck fee on cars heading into or leaving the most congested parts of the city, such as downtown, the Back Bay, the Longwood Medical area and the Seaport District.
If that’s not bad enough, they’d also like to impose a five buck parking “fee” on cars that aren’t heading home, an added indignity to commuters already being forced to pay $350 a month to park in dirty, overpriced lots.
These aren’t new ideas but are unwelcome ones, especially for commuters who are forced to drive into Boston every day to work at low- or middle-income jobs that don’t pay them enough. Or visitors to the city, maybe here to see a sick relative at one of the hospitals in Longwood.
Many people simply can’t take the T, because they can’t afford to live in Boston, and don’t live near a train or a bus. Or they actually have to get to their jobs on time, and just can’t rely on the MBTA’s often delayed system.
Now they’ll be punished for coming into the city, forced to squander hundreds of extra dollars a month into just their commute.
Environmentalists say the congestion fee will actually be good for commuters, because it will take cars off the road and lessen the amount of time people have to sit in gridlocked traffic.
But even proponents of the idea admit it’s a regressive tax, one that will hit lower-income people equally as hard if not harder than rich people.
Proponents of the plan also point to places like Stockholm, Sweden, where congestion fees have cut down on the number of cars.
But Stockholm also happens to have a good public transit system, unlike Boston.
In fact, the T is really the fatal flaw of the congestion pricing idea. It would be one thing if Boston had a clean reliable transit system. Then asking people to keep their cars at home would be a little more palatable.
Another thing backers of the congestion fee like to flaunt is the hundreds of millions in added revenue it will generate.
But what that doesn’t take into account is all the lost revenue the city will see in parking tickets that aren’t getting handed out, because fewer people will be driving in to Boston to shop.
And politically, the idea is a loser, which is why Mayor Marty Walsh says he’s not proposing the idea “at this time.”
This might be one of those times it’s lucky Walsh has ambitions for higher office, because a “congestion fee” doesn’t sound like a good plank for a statewide platform.
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