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Brookline pitch may hit Sox fans in wallet

Town ponders raising parking meter rates

By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / March 6, 2010

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BROOKLINE - Red Sox fans may not get a free pass to park in Brookline on their way to Fenway Park this summer.

Officials in Brookline are warming to the idea of extending the hours that parking meters operate near Fenway Park and charging about $10 to park in the spots during games.

In past seasons, parking has been free at meters in Brookline after 6 p.m. Sox fans could hop on the Green Line to get to Fenway and avoid parking fees near the stadium that can cost up to $35. But as a result, customers at some businesses - such as those near the St. Mary’s MBTA stop on Beacon Street - often could not find a place to park.

“Our regulars will not come down here when it’s a game day,’’ said Paul Walsh, general manager of the Beacon Street Tavern, who said at least 50 percent of his patrons drive to the restaurant.

Brookline selectmen appointed a committee to consider hiking meter rates and extending the hours for metered spots until 10 p.m., said Bill Schwartz, a cochairman of the committee.

The changes could affect more than 100 parking spots around the St. Mary’s stop and the 1000 block of Beacon Street.

Schwartz said the goal is to generate more revenue for the town and increase the turnover in parking spots near the St. Mary’s T stop, which is about a half-mile from Fenway Park.

The changes would need to be approved by the town’s Transportation Board. But Schwartz, who sits on that board, said it is expected that new meter rates and extended meter hours could be put in place around the St. Mary’s T stop after the start of the fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Though Boston doesn’t raise the rates to park at metered spots around Fenway Park on game days, Brookline wouldn’t be the first community to hike rates near a baseball stadium.

During games, the District of Columbia charges more for metered spots around the Washington Nationals’ stadium, which opened in 2008. Meter rates around the park during games are $2 for the first hour, $8 each for the second and third hours, and $2 for the fourth hour.

John Lisle, a spokesman for the district’s Department of Transportation, said the rates are part of a performance-based approach the city uses for places where parking is in high demand.

Lisle said the meter rates were hiked in an attempt to encourage use of mass transit.

The rates are comparable to charges in area parking garages. The first hour on a meter is cheaper than the second and third so that a person wishing to make a quick stop at a local business would not be penalized by paying game-time rates, Lisle said.

Schwartz said Brookline’s parking committee would probably recommend that meter rates be lower during the first two hours and then significantly higher for subsequent hours.

The total cost for a metered spot on a game night could be $10 or slightly more, though Schwartz said the price would be set based on demand for parking around the St. Mary’s T stop.

The current meter rate is 75 cents an hour.

Before it raises rates near Fenway, Brookline will need to install multispace parking meters that can accept credit cards and cash as well as coins. The town is planning to install them in other busy business districts along Beacon and Harvard streets.

Walsh, who said he is a Red Sox fan, is in favor of increasing meter rates and extending meter hours because his business has a noticeable lull during home games. While a few fans parking in the area may come into the tavern before a game, Walsh said not many come in afterward.

Jerry Katz, a member of Brookline’s Chamber of Commerce who lives near the St. Mary’s T stop, said something has to be done to help merchants in the area, because restaurants are “dead meat’’ during Red Sox games when patrons can’t find a place to park.

“There is not a spot to be had anywhere near this area,’’ Katz said.

But Barry Kolgian, owner of Kolgian Oriental Rug Galleries on Beacon Street, said that although Red Sox fans take many of the parking spots, he worries that raising meter rates could scare away customers.

Kolgian said he thinks parking enforcement needs to be improved, but he doesn’t think increasing meter rates would help.

“I’m content with the way it is for the moment,’’ Kolgian said.

But after hearing complaints from a number of merchants about the lack of turnover in parking spots near Fenway, Selectman Jesse Mermell, the other cochairman on the parking committee, said the town needs to figure out how to address the problem.

“It’s trying to find that sweet spot between increasing turnover and what we can enforce,’’ Mermell said.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.

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