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Opinion

Parking promises needed

For North Shore commuters, riding the commuter rail to Boston and back, or taking the Blue Line means, more often than not, paying for parking. Some riders can walk to the train station or park on a side street, but the commuter garage on Market Street or North Shore Road or the Swampscott train station parking lot are common destinations for many commuters.

It costs money to park in these locations and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is looking to parking revenue as a potential source for helping to solve its never-ending financial problems.

The MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board on Monday approved a $2.057 billion budget for its next spending year that includes, according to a State House News Service report, $7 million raised from unspecified changes to the parking fee structure.

The News Service reported MBTA officials weeks ago went on record supporting another $7 million from people who park at T lots and garages. The control board approved a budget on Monday that counts on the money but does not formally approve any changes to parking rates.

A parking policy proposal that MBTA staff have shared with the control board was not yet ready for action on Monday, according to administration officials. Control board members told reporters the document did not include specific rate changes and was instead a broader policy document.

But no announcement on potential parking rate hikes is no reason for commuters to settle into a state of complacency. Reforms and endless legislative debates define the MBTA’s troubled finances and no rock gets unturned when it comes to finding new money to operate the transit system.

Any move to increase parking rates — if it materializes — must be tied to careful efficiency and oversight reviews. The Lynn and Revere commuter garages provide multi-faceted benefits for drivers with commuters parking in the big structures on weekday mornings. During blizzards, the Lynn garage is a convenient destination for local residents who need to get their vehicles off the street during a snow emergency. For Boston-bound drivers who don’t want to pay Boston parking rates, the Revere garage located mere feet away from the Blue Line, is a great destination.

But Lynn’s current and former legislators, including Mayor Thomas M. McGee, have repeatedly taken the MBTA to task over the years about upkeep and security in the Lynn garage. With its rusting stairs and metal structure and deteriorating concrete walls, the garage is a convenient but unpleasant place to park.

The MBTA’s spending plan for fiscal 2019 needs to include updated inspections of the Lynn garage and a repair schedule for the facility’s most glaring maintenance needs.

According to the News Service, the MBTA’s parking policy to date includes plans for time-of-day, weekend and event pricing, and could involve the transfer of funds from transportation network company fees to the MBTA.

Those proposals could translate into convenience for commuters. But now is the time to ensure MBTA parking garage users are spending their money on safe and well-maintained facilities.

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