Stranger Things in BPDA's South Boston Existing Conditions Report

January 31, 2023

Caught in Southie announced yesterday a Pint with a Planner event to discuss the existing conditions report in South Boston. I will not be able to make it because I have a conflict with Code for Boston, but took time to dig into the nearly 150 page report. While many parts are not surprising, other parts are sci-fi. In the alternate universe the BPDA pulled data from, the 7 bus is not overcrowded.

Why It Matters

The government relies on the existing conditions report to make decisions about the neighborhood and the resources it needs. This report will be cited and used to make major decisions, potentially not just within BPDA but also by other agencies using it as a resource.

By the Numbers

  • BPDA/MBTA Claims a mere 35 People Ride the 7 Bus during the 9 a.m. hour most weekdays in 2022.1
  • 20% of vehicle permits issued by the city of Boston are issued for South Boston
  • There are approximately 36,789 active resident permits for 7,428 overnight spaces.
  • 15,890 tickets were issued for violating resident parking rules between June 2021 and June 2022. One third of these were to cars with out of state plates.

On the Ground

My wife takes the 7 bus in the mornings and regularly has at capacity buses move on without picking her up. Many times riders do not bother to tap-in to their ride which likely depresses the MBTA data. When they’re willing to make room passengers end up standing shoulder to shoulder on the bus.

Do Not Forget About Parking

The goal of parking enforcement should not be ticket revenue, but to create a culture of compliance. The sheer volume of parking tickets demonstrates a lack of parking infrastructure that meets the needs of the neighborhood. The city’s flaccid enforcement of its existing rules makes me think the situation is worse than the ticket data shows. Cars without resident permits sit on my street unmoved for weeks at a time.

Look Behind the Data

In both cases you need to “look behind” the data to understand how it’s collected and why it might not be right. The only thing scarier than the fact that folks might rely on this report, is lack of understanding why the data might be wrong or limited. No wonder the city’s response to some of the neighborhood challenges might be strange.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.