Sunday, May 19, 2024

Got any free time Monday? Swing by Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department on Broadway. Plenty of your friends and neighbors will be wasting time in line all the way up the stairs to renew their expired residential parking stickers.

Feb. 1 comes on a weekend this year, so the enforcement officers’ yearly feeding frenzy is a twofer. Thirty-dollar tickets for Saturday and Monday – hey, City Hall needs the money, doesn’t it?

Before you lay blame on the chronic procrastinators, consider why anybody has to deal with this annual nuisance in the first place. The vast majority of stickers are issued as renewals, a totally unwarranted hassle and expense. On top of your vehicle’s sales tax and excise tax as well as your property tax, Cambridge demands an additional $25 a year to park in front of your own home. It’s exactly coincident with the biennial $50 the Registry collects for a plate sticker for, well, another pointless fee.

In 2010 the city manager appeared before city councillors with a problem: At eight bucks a pop, 40,000 stickers weren’t coming close to covering the program’s $1.5 million cost. Today the $25 price still doesn’t pay the freight. It’s time to eliminate the whole nonsensical ritual and issue stickers good for as long as you own the car. What works for 65-plus seniors is just right for everybody else.

With average car ownership of 10 years or more, abuse of the system will be rare and easy to detect. Bar codes and the boot squad’s “hit list” ensure that scofflaws won’t evade for long.

The traffic and parking division employs 81 full-time workers. That’s nearly the number of patrol officers in the Somerville Police Department. Just three parking employees cost Cambridge taxpayers close to $400,000 – almost half the sticker revenue! – in wages and benefits out of the department’s staggering $11 million annual budget. Your annual inconvenience supports a money-losing employment program.

It’s a double whammy for Cambridge residents. You pay to hunt for a place to park after work as well as paying for reserved off-street parking for city employees. Tell your No. 1 City Council choice to end this wasteful nonsense and make the 2014 sticker the last you’ll need for your ride.

Gary Mello, Franklin Street