December 30, 2007

Space Wars '07

We couldn't have a year pass in Boston without rehashing the old argument of reserving parking spaces with household items during a snow emergency. This year the debate rages just as virulently as ever. It's basically trench warfare out there in the streets of Boston during and after a snow storm dumps mounds and mounds of the white stuff everywhere in sight.

The parking and overall traffic situation is already a major problem for the city. The amount of cars on the roads and cars that need to be parked on the streets is an ever increasing proposition, with no relief in sight. With construction projects blighting the city at every other intersection, the amount of room to maneuver and/or park your vehicle anywhere in the city is of the ever increasing difficulty variety.

When there is news of an impending snow storm in the greater Boston area, a kind of general mania sets in amongst its population. Suddenly people realize that they have to rush out and do 5 more errands. Housewives rush to their mini-vans to go pick up their dozens of kids early from school. Everyone dashes to their car to either leave work early or do those last few deliveries. Public service personnel and the transportation industry deploy all of their assets to aid those who feel the need to flock around as if a nuclear device was about to be detonated somewhere in the city. Every car that can start its engine in the entire greater Boston area hits the roads in some form or another. And if they're lucky that's the only thing they'll hit in the upcoming bedlam.

The first snow storm of the year this year resulted in massive traffic jams throughout the state of Massachusetts resulting in 7,8,9, hour commutes for some people depending on just how ambitious of a journey was being undertaken.

The 'Deval Crawl', as its come to be known, was probably the single worst experience commuters have ever endured in the history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The overall chaos, which represented a confluence of factors including the mania of the people and clear mismanagement of the situation by state and local officials, is not the end of the story however.

The mania does not recede when the snow ceases. In fact it intensifies as frustration slowly builds in those seeking to navigate the now almost impassible in some cases, streets of greater Boston. The surface area of the already over crowded streets is reduced because of the massive piles of snow buffeting parked cars and covering street signs entirely.

Then the real fun begins when the perennial debate and struggle I call 'Space Wars' ensues. Vigilantism and 'street justice' are the order of the day when Bostonian sets upon fellow Bostonian in the struggle to find a place the park their car. In recent years, the Mayor has weighed in, ordering residents not to deploy household items into the street in order to reserve a shoveled-out parking space. But despite the pleas of Mayor 'mumbles' Menino, all manner of items have been and continue to be employed as an informal disincentive to park in "some one's" space all day long when they are at work or simply out on the streets causing grid lock.

The situation has gotten so out of hand that last year a city councilor from South Boston came out in support of residents reserving their little piece of public property indefinitely with whatever manner of unsightly piece of house hold refuse. The mania caused by snow storms even drives many space holders to keep their devices in place on the public streets long after the majority of the snow has melted. It does start to look exceedingly silly to see old toilets and rusty lawnmowers sitting on the side of the road when merely a few hand fulls of very dirty snow are strewn around. Only in an old school town like Boston would so many residents defend the practice of reserving spaces like this with a straight face. People are set in their ways, and are immune to the use of logic in order to dislodge a long held view that during a storm a given person has the right to temporarily posses a piece of public property.

Read this Boston Herald article for a good laugh and view the comments section of the article to get a glimpse into the mindset of those who are proponets of this sociological phenomena.


Jaz said...

Here is the Herald article in case the link doesn't work:

Parking-crazed Hub denizens are flagrantly thumbing their noses at Mayor Thomas M. Menino, openly defying his mandate against saving spots with barrels, cones, and chairs, even though the snow has melted and a two-day grace period has long passed.

“It’s not enough time,” South Boston resident Robert Gleason said of Menino’s 48-hour rule. “I think you should have a right to (save spots) until the snow is all gone. These people are out here breaking their backs shoveling. (The city) shouldn’t be taking their chairs.”

Residents in Southie and other parking-starved neighborhoods continued yesterday to save spots with all sorts of household items in defiance of the mayor, reigniting a fierce snowstorm parking debate that infamously pitted Menino against late Southie City Councilor Jimmy Kelly.

In 2004, Menino vowed to clean up the “rummage sale” on Boston streets, giving residents 48 hours after a snowstorm before work crews would round up items saving spots. Kelly led the charge to defy the mayor and made national news by refusing to move a barrel from a spot at his Southie home.

Yesterday, clutter persisted across the city despite Menino’s rule.

“It looks like Bob’s Discount Furniture out in some of the neighborhoods,” said Councilor John Tobin. “The storm was two weeks ago and we’ve had rain. Just because you shovel out in one storm, it doesn’t mean it’s yours in perpetuity.”

In Dorchester and East Boston, streets were clogged with barrels and chairs, many of which occupied bone-dry sections of pavement. Ditto for Southie’s east side, where items including propane tanks, laundry baskets, milk crates, recycle bins and tires reserved mostly snow-free spots.

“It’s always a problem,” said Southie resident Maureen McCarthy, surveying debris littering O Street. “It’s common sense. You can’t save a spot until the Fourth of July.”

Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce said the 48-hour rule is being enforced and that makeshift space savers will be disappearing as trash haulers make rounds this week.

“If it’s there, it’ll be getting picked up,” Joyce said. “So if you really want that chair, I’d take it indoors.”

Former Mayor Ray Flynn, a Southie resident, said saving spaces under any conditions should not be allowed.

“These are public streets. Nobody has the right to a public street,” Flynn said. “People still have their chairs out there. They expect that this is a private reserved parking spot.”

Councilor Michael Flaherty has proposed buying snow-melting machines, but a planned pilot program has never materialized.

Councilor Michael Ross said snow removal - not chair removal - should be the city’s focus.

“I’d rather see public works crews dispatched to pick up snow and make parking meters available than playing this game of cat and mouse,” Ross said.

Jaz said...

Here are some choice comments that were made on the above Herald article:

Charlene form Southie says:

busted my back for 2 hours to clean my car out. You expect me to give up that same spot to someone who didn't do a thing to clear a space or leave their car home due to the impending storm. There is public transportation for those taking the cars in town. I feel that if there is piles of snow in the street (and the plows do a good job coming by several times and re-plowing me in), then I should be able to put something out until that snow melts. No disrespect to Mayor Menino, but he has a driveway!!!! Those of us who have to hunt and peck for a spot and have to park several blocks away from our own house don't like to lose the spot they found close enough to their house and shoveled out! I agree that there comes a time when those items need to be removed and people need to respect the fact that if there is no snow get rid of the items!!!!

Bill from the South End says:

Now wait a minute, I thought the street's were public property - - property that is administered by City Government? This practice dating back to the Pilgrims of using household items to "claim parking spots on public streets" has got to go; the Mayor is right, the city looks like a dump with the debris scattered all over the place from these "parking monsters." For those who complain or believe that they are entitled to a spot because they "shoveled it out," how nice of you to shovel public property; the only parking spot that you could claim ownership rights to is one that you have a deed for, or one that you are a transient tenant of at a parking lot or garage. THE MAYOR IS RIGHT!

Bob from 'The streets' says:

I say you deserve the spot you shoveled. IF someone parks in that spot prior to the spot being bare, then slice the crap out of all 4 of thier tires. As many of you have said, the parking permit rule is not enforced, they let contractors build condo's without any parking spaces. It's is totally acceptable for teh spot "shoveller" to take teh regualtion of the spot over. The government once again has failed us. I dont even live inteh city and I tell you one thing, I would have a car crushed and melted if it were in a space I shoveled. Slice all their tires. they will stop taking oyur space. JUST DONT GET CAUGHT!

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining. I am glad to not have to deal with it. I am very happy to not have to be commuting into Boston on a public bus for two hours each day and even more in the snow! And walking on unshoveled sidewalks. By the time I would get to work I would need a nap just to recover from the chaos of the commute. -EM

Kent said...

This is comedy.

Thanks for this, Buddy.

Happy New Year.