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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Mayor Wu says congestion pricing is still an option in Boston

By meerna Jun12,2024

U.S. governors and mayors, including Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, gathered at the Vatican climate conference in May to discuss ways to build resilience to the effects of climate change.

Three weeks later, one of the guest speakers – New York Governor Kathy Hochul – placed Manhattan’s long-awaited congestion pricing plan, which was scheduled to go into effect on June 30, on “indefinite hold.”

“It was a great shock to me to read what happened,” Wu said Boston Public Radio during Tuesday’s “Ask the Mayor” campaign.

Congestion charging labeling has been heralded as a major climate step to reduce air pollution and car dependency. The Boston City Council debated the merits of charging cars during rush hour to reduce traffic. Wu said New York would serve as a “proof of concept” for cities like Boston.

Despite shelving the New York City plan, Wu said she still believes there could be congestion pricing.

“I think all the tools should be on the table, including congestion pricing,” she said. Wu said the key to congestion pricing is a reliable transportation system that provides an alternative to driving. However, the MBTA in Boston faces a myriad of problems.

During it Boston Public Radio Wu also addressed Boston’s real estate transfer tax, which is assessed by the Massachusetts Legislature. Boston’s proposal would apply a 2% fee on the portion of a home’s price above $2 million. Sales of properties valued at $2 million or less would be exempt. This levy would provide revenue for affordable housing services.

“I know that sometimes it feels like any additional cost is a burden, and I completely respect that,” Wu said. “This is part of ensuring that we will be a livable city not only for those who currently have a place in Boston, but also for all future generations.”

A similar program included in Gov. Maura Healey’s housing bond bill, which would have given communities the option to tax property sales above $1 million, was eliminated in a bill passed by the House of Representatives last week.

While the Boston City Council was dealing with the budget, Wu said her administration was looking for new ways to raise revenue by modernizing the Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) program. These are voluntary contributions from non-profit organizations such as schools, hospitals, museums and religious buildings.

“It’s basically just a beautiful request for the city to go beyond what is not required by law at all. … They have no obligation to pay taxes to the city or public entities,” Wu said. These payments contribute to the city budget, which is then used to support these institutions, she added.

Wu said she would like to move to a system where cultural organizations “directly open doors and contribute to helping young people and families, but without making cash payments.”

For universities, Wu said she is working to explain to institutions how the payments will benefit them, and potentially creating a housing fund with PILOT payments to students and faculty. As a non-profit organization, GBH is a participant in the PILOT program.

By meerna

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