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Fewer cars in Boston means less $$

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Transportation is important to Mayor Michelle Wu. It’s a literal vehicle to further her Green New Deal agenda.

She campaigned on making changes to the way we get around Boston, calling for “action to empower commuters with reliable, safe multimodal options and public transit” as well as looking into congestion pricing, and managing “curbside space for pick up and drop off from ride-hailing vehicles and delivery trucks that slow traffic and block bike lanes and sidewalks when parked.”

Traffic is the enemy.

Wu also promoted a boost in commuting by bike (the fast track to reaching climate and health goals), and vowed to make safe cycling a reality for every neighborhood.

And the MBTA, the bete noire of commuters, is part of Wu’s vision as well. She is all for bus lanes, especially in “our most congested corridors.”

The recent month-long Orange Line shutdown gave Wu a change to swing for the fences. As the Herald reported, Wu said changes made during that T hiatus, such as rejiggered streets built for buses, bikes, and pedestrians rather than personal vehicles were ideas Boston would like to look at long time.

Wu had already been making cars-off-the-street moves, such as limiting the amount of parking spaces in new developments, and a plan to add 9.4 miles of protected bike lanes over the next three years.

The progressive ideal of an eco-friendly Boston buzzing with cyclists and pedestrians striding along wide sidewalks on their way to catch some form of mass transit is in its nascent stage under Wu.

One question: How will the city deal with the revenue lost from fines and fees imposed on personal vehicles?

According to the city’s web site, Boston collected parking fines revenue of $70.1 million in FY19. COVID took a bite out of traffic, and total FY20 parking fines revenue collection decreased to $62.7 million.

Then there’s the motor vehicle excise tax, $25 per $1,000 of vehicle valuation.

After snagging $62.7 million in FY20, the city budget called for $50 million in excise tax revenue for FY22.

Parking fines are a lucrative racket: Boston collected parking fines revenue of $70.1 million in FY19.

Car-based revenues have fallen due to the fallout from COVID as many people are still working from home or have left their jobs.

Still, $112 million from excise taxes and parking fines is a nice chunk of change. And as COVID put the squeeze on driving around Boston, imagine the budget shrinkage as the city leans in on buses and bikes, and makes driving and parking exercises in frustration.

On the one hand, less congestion, less pollution, and bikes as far as the eye can see.

On the other, sagging city coffers as car owners and drivers get the message: you’re not welcome here.

Boston has a lot of needs, and every dollar the city takes in is spoken for.

We understand that the Wu Administration is dedicated to all things green.

But we wonder how it will  make up for the inevitable loss of so many greenbacks from a dwindling driving public.

 

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