Fine People More For Pickup Trucks and Less If They’re Poor? Somerville Considering Changes in Parking Fines

Printed from:

Somerville city officials are interested in issuing lower parking violation fines to poor people and people who don’t drive large vehicles.

The proposals, which are still in the planning stage, came up earlier this week during a city government board meeting.

One is called “implementing income-based parking ticket fines for residents, as well as ‘day-fine’ scales to set ticket penalties according to an individual’s daily income,” according to agenda item number 13 of the meeting.

Parking fines are a significant source of revenue for Somerville, which crams about 81,000 people into its 4.22 square miles. In fiscal year 2017, for example, the city took in more than $5.7 million in parking fines. That figure was $5.3 million in fiscal year 2018.

Some city officials are concerned that poor people may have trouble paying parking tickets.

Mark Niedergang, a city councilor and chairman of the city council’s Traffic and Parking Committee, asked city director of traffic and parking Suzanne Rinfret where the proposal stands during a committee meeting Monday, April 12.

Rinfret thanked the city council for funding a current study of parking in the city. She said “that the parking study is hopefully a revenue — an avenue — that we can use to figure this problem out – or this issue out. Hopefully that will give us some insight. Currently, I can’t see how this could work at this point with the type of software we have, or to make something like this happen. So hopefully the parking study will answer this issue. And this is a great question. As you know, Councilor Niedergang, this is some of the questions that we’re going to be answering in the parking study.”

Some city officials are also concerned about the size of vehicles driven in Somerville, including sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Another agenda item (number 14) called for committee members to “discuss scaling parking permit fines with automobile size and efficiency.”

“And I bring this up again because I keep on learning more about how car ownership has changed in the U.S.,” Niedergang said (at 1:39:39). “I read recently – somebody correct me if this is wrong – that the three highest-selling vehicles in the U.S. are all pickup trucks. Which shocked me. I had no idea.”

About 13 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States during 2020 were pickup trucks, according to CNBC. The Ford F-150, which is a pickup truck, has been the highest-selling vehicle in the United States since 1981, according to Business Insider.

This trend has reached Somerville, the councilor said.

“But you do see a lot of pickup trucks in Somerville, and you see a lot of, you know, SUVs. And we know that the vehicle mix has gotten larger and heavier over the last 20 years,” Niedergang said. “And that’s had lethal implications, in terms of when pedestrians get hit. So, you know, size matters, and it does seem that incentives and rewards for people who have smaller vehicles would be appropriate. So, any new information on this, Miss Rinfret? We’ve discussed this a couple of times before. I’m always hoping there will be some new angle that will enable this to actually be implemented.”

The traffic and parking director said some have suggested that “making parking spaces smaller or having less parking also makes people change their behaviors,” but that more data is needed.

“So, we’re hoping the parking study is going to help us with both of these questions, and that’s the goal of the parking study,” Rinfret said.

Somerville leans left. The city’s voters went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in November 2020 by 87 to 10 percent. Democratic socialists are hoping to take over the city council in the November 2021 city election.

Niedergang, who is planning to leave the Somerville City Council, said he regrets that he’ll miss the discussion next year, “when I think a lot of the action on parking reform happens.”

“But I’ll be involved, because this is something I’ve been dreaming of for many years,” Niedergang said.


New to NewBostonPost?  Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts.  But you’ve found it.  Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months.  And join the real revolution.