Push for Congestion Pricing Spurs Parking Reform

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It may not have been Mayor Bloomberg’s intention when he proposed congestion pricing, but he has put reforming curbside parking policies front and center. Desperate for "alternatives" to pricing, opponents have borrowed proposals to hike curbside parking rates, and price free curb spaces. These parking reforms which would significantly reduce double-parking and traffic snarling cruising, are championed by Transportation Alternatives, and its former consultant Bruce Schaller, who is now a Deputy Commissioner at the city DOT.

Regardless of whether congestion pricing meets legislative approval in March, it has laid the groundwork for significant changes in city parking policy. The first hint came this week in a DOT press release announcing community parking workshops in neighborhoods on the edge of the congestion pricing zone. Says DOT:

The study areas, which display a range of parking-related conditions, were selected based on their representative characteristics and their ability to inform parking strategies that can be applied citywide…DOT (is working) to develop a toolbox of potential parking solutions that can be applied to neighborhoods citywide.

Traffic is a hot issue because of the mayor. But on-street parking reform has been percolating for a number of years thanks to Transportation Alternatives. The advocates at T.A. commissioned key studies by Schaller which revealed that 28 percent of Soho traffic and 45 percent of Park Slope traffic is made up entirely of motorists cruising for parking space.

T.A. also brought UCLA parking guru Don Shoup to New York City to meet with business leaders, police and DOT officials. Shoup’s message that curbside parking prices should be based on occupancy targets — typically 85 percent of curb spots filled — was very well received. Despite being posed by some as an "alternative" to congestion pricing, ideally on-street parking reforms would work in concert with pricing, as they do in London, to reduce traffic and create more space for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. However, with or without road pricing, much needed changes in curbside parking are coming to New York City.

  • JK

    Maybe NYC can learn from Amsterdam. I’d like to see curb metering on residential streets. (There are scattered examples on some Manhattan side streets.)I do not know what RPPs would fetch at auction — obviously far more if they guaranteed a curb spot. But I’m very skeptical that an auction would be politically tolerable. Anyway, point is that if RPPs are only a “hunting license” they are not going to curb demand much. Demand for parking so far outweighs supply in the neighborhoods on the edge of the pricing zone (see double parking and cruising)that I doubt RPPs will have a noticeable impact. I also doubt that RPPs will trump police, fire and other law enforcement placards. This said, I’d like to see RPPs tried in downtown Bklyn to see what happens. Maybe a couple versions could be experimented with in pilot programs in different boroughs. Given NYC densities of from 5,000 to 100,000 people/sq mile, we may find RPPs work in some NYC neighborhoods and not others.

  • Slopion

    The curbside is public, not private, property, it is true. But the public has every right, through its government, to lease out public property for a price, if it chooses. Put the permits in place and set the price high. Let people literally pay something toward the social costs of their vehicles. Better that than the alternative–which, dream whatever you may, is that they keep parking for free.

    BTW, Hilary, the disincentive for people to drive, now that they don’t have to fear losing a space? Wherever they go, they’ll have to pay extremely high metered rates.

  • JK

    “Put the permits in place and set the price high.”
    Yeah OK, when you’re done with that you create a $12 congestion fee for the Manhattan CBD (heck throw in downtown Bklyn), eliminate govt parking placards, make every avenue and blvd a car-free, cyclovia party on weekends etc etc. Try to differentiate between what’s right and what’s politically possible. How about starting with turning parking meters back on, on sundays?

  • Hilary

    Slopion — It doesn’t matter if all curbside parking is expensive. If you can expect to be able to find a place, you might as well use your car. In fact, the more you use it, the more you save on parking! Especially if the CP is a one-time charge for entering the zone, you can save money on parking by keeping the car in motion all day.
    I am just pointing out that pricing — whether of parking or driving – can not be the only solution. There will have to be gradual elimination of space allocated for vehicles. We could set it to music like musical chairs.

  • Slopion

    JK: Well, this is the first time I’ve been accused of being *too* idealistic and extreme on Streetsblog, so thanks for that. So set the price as high as you can; once it’s in place you can go up from there. I don’t think the fee is a dealbreaker politically. As long as the result is that, in exchange for paying up, you get to park easier (which is exactly what many of the other posters here fear will happen), there’s a benefit gained for the price.

    Hilary: If you pay a set fee for a Resident Permit, then you do pay more the more you use your car (because you’re most likely driving to a neighborhood where your permit does not work).

    Paying money in exchange for a better chance at parking is a carrot, and thus is at least remotely politically feasible. (And generates money that can be invested in mass transit, for instance, while possiblyconvincing the car owners least attached to their vehicles that they’re not worth it.) Purposely eliminating parking spaces is a stick, and thus much tougher outside Streetsblogworld.

  • JK

    RPPs are primarily a tool to reduce competition for parking from commuters, not a form of pricing to reduce residential demand for parking. I think you will quickly encounter the same politics of entitlement that is stalling congestion pricing if you price RPPs high enough to reduce local parking demand. Whether permits were priced at $5,$50 or $500, any amount that is considered unaffordable by some group of motorists who currently park for free is going to generate immense controversy. I keep bringing up “pay to pray” free sunday parking because it an example of how utterly irrational City Council is when it comes to parking policy. In that case, council overrode a mayoral veto. It’s hard to imagine council sitting on the sideline and watching DOT impose high RPP fees. I continue to think the best RPP package does not attempt to price the RPP itself very high, but uses it as a bargaining chip to get a certain number of spots on every block metered for service vehicles, drop-offs etc.

  • What Shoup says is that on-street parking should be priced to achieve 85 percent occupancy to reduce ‘cruising for parking’ and the resultant local congestion it causes. New York City has far too many un-priced and under-priced On-Street Parking opportunities.

    Our company Skymeter has responded to the Congestion Pricing RFEI can offer a much better solution to both the parking dilemna and the Congestion Pricing scheme. This would include the ability to accurately price.

    Justin Peters

  • In response to the concerns about Residential Parking Permits, perhaps New York City (this may be blasphemy to some) doesn’t have ALL the answers and should look to other Cities, like Toronto Ontario, where RPP works extremely well and even accommodates out-of-town visitors with Guest passes but ensures that residents always have a place to park near their home.

  • We have to first get people to understand the high value of the publicly owned curbside parking space relative to proximity of destinations and time of demand. Then we need to create what Shoup calls “parking benefit districts” to capture fees for those benefits for the affected neighborhoods. I’ve written many times how the enforcement of such parking rules and the consequent fines are cycled back to the equivalent of our community boards (though with much more professional staff and responsibilities) to implement road and open space improvements. Think of the change in the balance of power that this would bring about.
    I hope we can mobilize people around these ideas at Shoup’s talk on Monday night.

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