The first Boston City Council hearing of the year took place on Wednesday, January 24 at Boston City Hall. The Council welcomed the new City Council President Andrea Campbell of District 4 and three new City Councilors including Lydia Edwards, District 1, Ed Flynn, District 2, and Kim Janey, District 7.
After complaints were heard from members of the public, City Council President Andrea Campbell said a new rule would be implemented during public hearings that have public testimony. Instead of waiting hours to be heard at the end, when everyone has packed up and left, Committee Chairs will now be required to hear public testimony at the beginning and the middle of the hearing if the hearing is expected to last three or more hours.
In addition, all committees have been encouraged to focus on the issue of equity – racial or gender – and to look at solving problems through that lens.
Councilor Frank Baker called for a hearing order regarding the regulation of the taxi industry, transportation network companies and self-driving vehicles. With the onslaught of new technology that allows on-demand car service like Uber and Lyft, the regulatory system governing the taxi industry is in flux.
“Rather than wait and see what the impacts are and pick up the pieces, we need to get out in front of this,” said Councilor Michele Wu, the Chair of Planning, Development and Transportation. “We want to make sure we are not creating more congestion by increasing vehicles on the road by implementing shared driverless cars, reduce vehicle trips and free up parking spaces.”
In addition, Wu said, the Council needs to start figuring out what to do when the day comes when Uber is no longer in need of drivers.
“One day not too far in the future, Uber will say they will no longer need to hire drivers and those people will have no source of income and not enough money to put food on the table…how will we address that?”
Long Island Bridge:
Councilor Andrea Campbell and Annissa Essaibi-George called for a hearing to examine plans to reconstruct the Long Island Bridge and reopen service facilities.
The hearings will explore the accounting by the City of Boston and other agencies regarding the current status of the bridge, the island and its facilities since its termination on Oct. 8 and will look at the current plans to revitalize the Long Island Bridge and create a new recovery continuum of care – including funding mechanisms, permitting needs, and timeline.
“We know this is an important right step to fight the opioid epidemic and find an end to this crisis,” said Essaibi-George. “But this will be expensive. The City Council should be involved in every step of this process.”
Essaibi-George said that the timeline is going to be over the next four years and that the Council should remain focused on the work that needs to be done now.
“When we re-open the Long Island Bridge the crisis won’t end, but it is an important step to recognize this crisis and the role it plays and will play into the future,” said Essaibi-George.
The matter was assigned jointly to the Committee on Planning, Development & Transportation and the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health & Recovery for a hearing.
Resident Parking Permit Stickers are up for debate:
City Councilor Michelle Wu is asking for a hearing order to take a look at the current resident parking permit program within the city of Boston.
Currently, the City restricts on-street parking on many residential streets to vehicles with a valid neighborhood resident parking sticker, but there is no charge for a parking sticker and no restriction on how many stickers per household.
Wu said that there are many potential changes that would improve this system including adding parking benefit districts to incentive use of off-street spots, potential visitor passes, stickers for Boston Public School staff and small business owners – to even putting a small charge to obtain resident parking sticker.
“Our streets are one of the most valuable resources the city has in terms of property,” said Wu. “Even when residents have a resident parking permit sticker, I hear from residents on how stressful it could be to circle and not find parking even if you get home a little after five or if you have visitors who can’t leave a car anywhere. There are a lot of issues we can untangle and look at.”
The matter was assigned to the Planning, Development and Transportation Committee and a hearing date has not been set.