Cambridge City

Committee Report
CRT 2018 #34
Sep 24, 2018 5:30 PM

A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor Dennis J. Carlone and Councillor Craig A. Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Ordinance Committee, for a public hearing held on July 23, 2018 to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.”


Department:City Clerk's OfficeSponsors:
Category:Ordinance Committee




Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair

Councillor Craig Kelley, Co-Chair

Vice Mayor Jan Devereux

Councillor Allana Mallon

Mayor Marc C. McGovern

Councillor Sumbull Siddiqui

Councillor Timothy J. Toomey, Jr.

Councillor E. Denise Simmons

Councillor Quinton Zondervan

In City Council September 17, 2018



The Ordinance Committee, comprised of the entire membership of the City Council, held a public hearing on Monday, July 23, 2018 at 3:34 PM in the Sullivan Chamber.


The purpose of the hearing was to discuss a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code in Chapter 10.17 entitled “Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance” in section 10.17.070 entitled “Fees for Residential Parking Stickers.”


Present at the hearing were Councillor Carlone and Councillor Kelley, Co-Chairs of the Committee, Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Mallon,  Councillor Siddiqui, Councillor Simmons, Councillor Toomey, Councillor Zondervan, Lisa Peterson, Deputy City Manager, David Kale, Assistant City Manager for Fiscal Affairs, Joseph Barr, Director, Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department, Iram Farooq, Assistant City Manager for Community Development Department, Susanne Rasmussen, Director, Environmental and Transportation Planning, CDD and City Clerk Donna P. Lopez.


Also present were Gary Mello, 324 Franklin Street and Robert Winters, 366 Broadway.


Councillor Kelley convened the hearing and stated the purpose.  He announced that the hearing was being privately audio recorded.


Mr. Barr stated that there was no formal presentation.  He stated that he is here to answer questions on the topics.  He provided data for 2018 permits.  He stated that permits are issued November through August and 35,000 have been issued.  He stated that during 2013 - 2017 38,500 permits were issued per year and he expects about that many this year, with a traditional late summer bump in registrations. Overall, registrations have dropped slowly but steadily since 2003’s 41,000 permits. He was asked how many large household have permits. Mr. Barr responded that in 2018 the number of households that have received permits is 16,551 and have one permit.  He stated that the vast majority of households have 1-2 permits.  He stated that the cost for a permit is $25 and includes 1 visitor permit.  There is a charge of $25 for just a visitor permit sticker.  He stated that for residents over 65 the permit is free.  He noted that the last increase in the permit fee was in 2011 from $20 to $25 and before that it had gone from $8 to $20. 


Mr. Kale noted that the revenue has gone down annually. It was $821,000 in FY18 and $888,000 in FY16.


Councillor Toomey noted that 41,000 resident parking stickers were issued in 2013.  Mr. Barr stated 34,823 permits have been issued in 2018 and will increase with the influx of students.  Councillor Toomey spoke about the City’s population has increased by 15,000.  He questioned whether the trends been reviewed.


Councillor Zondervan asked about the cost to the City for the permit program.  Mr. Barr spoke about the cost for personnel, VIT, material costs; so, it is difficult to say.  It is somewhere in the $35-$50 per permit issued range. It is not $8, and it is not $100. 


Vice Mayor Devereux suggested data be provided for the hearing.  Mr. Barr stated it is the number of household versus the number of permits.  There are 16,551 households that have a single permit.  Vice Mayor Devereux asked is the cost looked at on a programmatic basis versus permit basis.  Mr. Barr stated that this is taking the overall cost divided by the number of permits issued, with most of the effort being taken up by the first vehicle registered to a household.  He spoke about the overall personnel cost because vehicle ownership needs to be determined by the staff. 


Councillor Siddiqui asked how often do residents pay above the $25?  She asked does the City have this data.  Mr. Barr responded that it is a small amount; it is about $3-$4,000 per year.  This was offered as an option in 2011 when fee was increased and has been trending down since then.


Councillor Mallon noted that in early summer and late fall there is a gap from this year compared to date compared to past complete years; is this historically the case and will there be the typical 4,000 registrations that seem to be needed to fill the gap at this point.  Mr. Barr stated that he would investigate the data base for this information.  He stated that this year the tracking is similar to last year. 


Councillor Zondervan stated that his proposed amendment makes changes to the fee structure.  He offered data on this.  He stated that the number of permits has declined since 2003 and has been in the 38,000 range. His proposal is for permits to cost $30 in 2020 and $40 in 2022, with waivers available by discretion.


Councillor Kelley opened public comment at 3:53 PM.


Gary Mello, 324 Franklin Street, read from a prepared statement (ATTACHMENT A).  He stated that the annual resident parking sticker renewal process should be suspended.  He alleged that the fees received from parking stickers are used outside of the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department.  The focus should be on reducing traffic; not increasing fees. 


Robert Winters, 366 Broadway, stated that if the fees are increased he will not go broke on this.  He spoke about the bait and switch program.  He spoke about the resident parking sticker program was to make sure that there was parking turnover in business districts and was not supported to be a revenue source.  The permit parking program was to ensure that Cambridge would not be a parking lot and was supposed to make this for the resident.  He spoke about the lineup for residents who are paying for resident sticker.  He spoke about using data for this permitting process.  It is absurd to line up the stickers year after year so why not issue a single permit that lasts until you leave?


Councillor Kelley closed public comment at 3:59 PM.


Councillor Toomey spoke about the trends of those who are not using cars and the younger population.


Ms. Rasmussen stated that there has been a decline in all things reviewed: mode sharing, driving and commuting mobility.  There is a 5% decrease in driving as commuters in the past several years.  The resident parking sticker has dropped from one sticker per household to 0.75.  She stated it is unknown about those who own a car that do not get a sticker.  There is a general trend for less driving and less car ownership.


Councillor Siddiqui asked what the goal is.  She stated that the operational cost for the residential parking sticker program cost is being offset.  She spoke about what $35-$40 means to some residents.  She wanted to set clear policy goals.


Councillor Zondervan stated that this amendment is focused on the fee.  He spoke about limiting the conversation to increasing the fee or not.  He noted that revenues are decreasing, and the number of parking permits issued is declining while the population increases, and the cost of the program is not being offset and it seems clear we are underpricing the permit.  He spoke about compassionate fee collection for those who are in need should be accommodated.  “Significant financial hardship” is vague language but is used elsewhere.


Vice Mayor Devereux asked why wait until 2020 to increase this fee; why not increase the fee in 2019?   Mr. Barr explained that renewals start in November and supplies need to be ordered as soon as possible so this decision needs to be made quickly.  Vice Mayor Devereux asked about streamlining the process and having a one-time fee for residents that can be done on-line; is this feasible, she asked?  The number of new residents would make the numbers constant.  Mr. Barr stated that residents would not need a new sticker every year and how would the price be set.  The permit is not matched to the vehicle number.  The visual inspection of the sticker is faster than by checking the license plate and there are privacy issues to consider. He would be hesitant about issuing an electronic sticker.  He stated that scanning the Massachusetts license number did not work smoothly.  He stated that if a bar code were put onto the sticker this is not a simple change in the operation of the department.  2/3 of people renew online and there are five days of cords. It is inconvenient but not so much so recently. Vice Mayor Devereux stated that she hears a good reason for keeping a physical sticker. 


Councillor Toomey asked Mr. Kale if the revenue received matches the expenditure of staff time.  Mr. Kale responded that a formula has been created; it is $35-$50 per permit but it has not been entirely analyzed but budget staff.  Mr. Barr stated that the program is generally losing money and the price of the permit does not cover the cost of issuing it.  Mr. Kale explained that the revenues from Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department covers the operating costs and other departments and capital costs such as work done at the First Street Garage.  There are thirteen million dollars in Department costs and twenty-two million dollars in revenue. He stated that the capital budget fixes the streetlights and the garage and offsets revenues to other City department that are traffic related.  Councillor Toomey stated that the justification for raising fees is because the cost of operating this program exceeds revenue received.   He spoke about this type of thinking concerns him because he asked does this mean that programs in other departments should be raised to pay for the operating costs?  Councillor Toomey stated that he cannot support this. He is concerned about the impact on families.


Councillor Mallon asked how the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department would verify the income-based need.  She was not convinced there was a demonstrated need for the revenue. Mr. Barr stated that this could be onerous. He hoped to piggyback on other hardship-related programs such as food stamps or fuel assistance programs that could be followed.  He stated that verifying income would be onerous to his staff and spoke about the concern for collecting data and what to do with the data.  He stated that this is a City Council policy question.  He added that operationally this is challenging.  Mr. Kale stated that implementation for the renewal cycle would not accommodate this and that the Law Department would want to review the complexity and the legality of this.  The data base would need to contain the criteria guideline. Right now, the only exception is a clear one for those over 65 years of age and other metrics may become very complex and cumbersome.  Councillor Mallon expressed concern with using other departments’ means testing to use for this program.  She stated that WIC and SNAP cases are down since President Trump.  She added that this is a complicated issue.  She asked what the goal is: less cars or increase fees.  She suggested a tiered fee structure.  Councillor Mallon stated that she cannot support something that does not consider those who have a financial need.


Councillor Zondervan spoke about means testing for financial need such as used for the housing program could be linked to the traffic program.  A cap or tiered system should be looked at but currently this is to review the fee.  This program should not be undercharged; the cost of a permit should be set at what the program is costing per permit. 


Councillor Kelley stated that he does not like the idea of underwriting other people’s cars.  As a non-car owner, he is happy to subsidize other programs, but not the parking permit program. He would support this proposal.  He stated that he does not see a will on the Council to choose to change things.  He spoke about the means testing amendment becoming a very complicated, time-consuming mess. 


Vice Mayor Devereux spoke about waiving the senior fee and asked is the fee waived for the disabled.  Mr. Barr stated that if there is a HP plate, which is issued by the state, one can park in resident parking spaces whether they are residents or not.  He stated accessible parking is designed on residential streets, but they must provide documentation and need.  Vice Mayor Devereux spoke about the free and reduced lunch programs and asked whether this program could be used as a means testing.  Mr. Kale stated that this is something that the Law Department would have to review, and that implementation will require more analysis.


Councillor Carlone stated that parking is the biggest value in the City.  This is talking about $.13 per day; $35 per year. It is tiny money. He spoke about parking during snow time and how when people do not move their cars it is an indication of how cheap parking is.  He noted that parking meter fees are increasing in other communities and this makes Cambridge resident parking sticker a bargain. Our meter prices are also very cheap. He spoke about those who have a driveway and park on the street.  This is pennies to bring this up to the cost and this is more money for street improvements. 


Councillor Kelley spoke about referring this to City Council or keeping this in committee.  Councillor Toomey moved to keep the matter in committee.  Councillor Zondervan asked about the questions on means testing.  He suggested voting this up or down.  Councillor Toomey noted that there are reasons to keep this in committee.  He wanted the information that Mr. Barr will provide to the City Council.  This is his reason to review the matter.


Councillor Mallon stated that this needs more work around the means testing and she agreed with Councillor Toomey.


Councillor Carlone asked about what other areas does the City do means testing.  Mr. Kale responded the DHSP after school program for scholarships.


Ms. Rasmussen commented that Blue Bikes have an income threshold and there is criterion that the person needs to comply with to get a financial hardship-related discount.


Councillor Zondervan moved to amend the motion to leave in committee after the information on means testing.  Councillor Kelley commented that if the matter is kept in committee it usually dies and means testing may prove to be more complicated than it is possible solve. He would rather see staff time going to other challenging issues.


Vice Mayor Devereux stated that there may be five votes to move the amendment forward and that keeping it in committee would likely kill it. It is fairly easy to prove if there is a hardship.  She noted that it is more valuable to get a discount for a sticker than a bike sticker.


Councillor Zondervan moved to amend the language to require the City administration to promulgated regulations or means test the program and report back to the City Council.


Councillor Mallon moved to refer this to the full City Council and figure out the means testing and whether there may be a way to figure out financial need.  Councillor Kelley stated that absent a clear feeling that the Council, overall, would support an increase, this work on financial need is not supportable.  He wanted a sense for more progress.


Councillor Zondervan stated that he wanted more information on implementing a means testing from the staff.


Councillor Carlone stated that the bike program began subsidizing even though initially that was said to be too complicated.  The means testing could probably be done within a year.  There should be a standard way to do means testing; means testing in this is important.


Councillor Zondervan moved the following motion:


ORDERED:                            That the City Manager be and hereby is requested to report back to                                           the City Council with the cost of implementing a means testing for                                                         the resident parking sticker program for those who would receive a                                           reduction in the resident parking sticker fee using existing means                                                        testing done by other department for other programs in the                                                                       City for those who are in financial need.


The motion carried on a voice vote with Councilor Kelley voting in the negative.


Vice Mayor Devereux asked if the City Council did receive an inventory of the number of on-street parking spaces in the City.   Mr. Barr stated that the City does not have this number but will have the number in the future. 


Councillor Kelley stated that he is not in support of this and the focus on the substantial hardship issue will take a mammoth amount of time. 


Councillor Kelley and Councillor Carlone thanked all those present for their attendance.             


The hearing adjourned at 4:55 PM on motion of Councillor Toomey.                                                                     


                                                        For the Committee,


                                                        Councillor Craig Kelley, Co-Chair

                                                        Councillor Dennis J. Carlone, Co-Chair

                                                                      Ordinance Committee



Meeting History

Sep 17, 2018 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft


RESULT:CHARTER RIGHTNext: 9/24/2018 5:30 PM
Sep 24, 2018 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft