City Hall to Reduce Parking Placards 20% and Centralize Control

crosby_parking.jpeg
Crosby Street, Soho: A veritable government employee parking lot. (Photo: UncivilServants.org)

As reported last week on NYPD Rant, the City Hall crackdown on government employee parking placards has arrived. Acknowledging the dissonance between his congestion mitigation efforts and City employees’ flagrant parking abuse, Mayor Bloomberg today announced a reduction in the number of city government parking permits and new, more centralized procedures for the issuance of placards. From the press release:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that the City of New York, as part its efforts to reduce traffic congestion, decrease the City’s carbon footprint, encourage the use of public transportation, and reduce the demand for curbside parking in connection with City business, is implementing a comprehensive program to reduce the number and misuse of government parking placards. First, every City agency will reduce its number of parking placards by at least 20 percent. Second, the issuance of parking placards will be centralized and only the Police Department and the Department of Transportation will have the authority to issue them. Third, the NYPD will create a new enforcement unit to ensure compliance and agencies will develop enforcement procedures to prevent the abuse of placards. A multi-agency working group will implement and coordinate the various measures being taken and take additional actions, including a review of existing agency parking-space allocations and on-street parking regulations.

While this is a major step forward, the fact the NYPD is still in the placard printing business raises an eyebrow. The big question though is whether the police union (or PBA) is also going to be in the placard printing business. For a sense of what City Hall is up against in this initiative, again, we turn to our good friends over at NYPD Rant:

if the city yanks our plaques, then the war is on. the pba can have some printed for its members, active and retired, and i will bang out every car with official plates that is illegally parked or runs a light (the offenders can explain themselves in front of an administrative judge at AAB or parking violations bureau)….JUST WAIT AND SEE

Here’s the rest of the City’s press release:

"Parking placards are a necessary tool for conducting City business, but we have no tolerance for their abuse, which contributes to congestion," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We will give out placards only to those who need to use them to further the public interest. City workers have often led by example, and our efforts to reduce traffic congestion will be no different."

"In addition to the reduction in official placards, vehicles displaying look-alike or counterfeit placards will be issued summonses and their owners will be subject to further prosecution," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

"A reduction in placards isn’t just about opening up curbside parking spaces," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "It also speaks to the City’s efforts to be smarter about the allocation of our transportation resources, and to a transportation policy that aims for a greener, greater and less congested New York."

The multi-agency working group on placard use has asked each City agency to create an inventory of all parking placards for use as a benchmark for the 20 percent reduction. On March 1st the reduced number of permits will be issued by either the NYPD or DOT, and from that date forward only those two agencies will issue placards. The NYPD will issue placards for its use and for law enforcement agencies it currently issues permits to and the DOT will issue all other placards for every other City agency. The working group will develop a process for agencies to demonstrate a need for additional placards, which will be reviewed on an agency-by-agency basis. In connection with the reduction in placards issued, agencies will implement measures to prevent parking-placard misuse by agency personnel.

The working group will also conduct a review of existing parking-space allocations and on-street parking regulations throughout the City. The group will work with agencies to develop strategies to ensure compliance with parking and placard regulations, including time limits in no parking, truck loading, and metered zones, to increase the use of technology such as in-vehicle smart placards and create greater reliance on public transportation. The group will also develop reporting metrics to assess the effectiveness of agency compliance and enforcement. The group, chaired by Deputy Mayor for Operations Edward Skyler, consists of representatives from the NYPD, DOT, Finance Department and the Mayor’s Office of Operations.

  • Wha-hoo! Enourmous congrats are due to Transportation Alternatives and UncivilServants staff and volunteers crew for achieving the impossible in less than a year!

    I wonder if there will be any impact on this problem, which doesn’t involve placards:

    http://flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/2163413022/

  • El Diablo

    Great work placard busters. This is a great start. Now the real hard work starts. Who is staffing this new placard enforcement posse? These fellows are going to be even more unpopular than IAB. Are they really going to summonses the union placards? Are they taking away the tens of thousands of self-enforcement zone permits?

    (“Self-enforcement” Now there’s an oxymoron if there ever was one.”

  • PBR

    Nicely put Aaron: “Acknowledging the dissonance between his congestion mitigation efforts and City employees’ flagrant parking abuse.”

    They just took a stone away from the anti-congestion pricing nutters.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t think congestion pricing opponents, who are in the political class, really wanted a reduction in free parking placards. I believe it was a red herring dare. Bloomberg is apparently willing to call their bluff.

    To make the policy something other than punative, however, an alternative must be offered to those working outside the CBD. Even Lower Manhattan is a pretty lousy transit commute for those living outside the city — the majority of civil servants who matter.

    I’ve suggested a large scale dynamic carpooling system, with riders paying drivers somewhat more than a transit fare for a door to door ride. The riders could save a lot by ditching one of their cars, and the drivers could earn something extra on the way to their permit-only on-street space. And by making the carpooling system dynamic, no one would be stranded while working that pension-padding overtime.

  • Hilary

    This is a great leap forward. However, by making a flat 20% reduction across the board it still seems to preserve the permits as perks that are doled out by the agencies and unions to their members. This is very different from making every agency apply for new permits specific to an employee and/or specific use/location/time with ALL OTHER USES no longer allowed. It is good that they are moving toward “smart placards,” if they will use the embedded info to track who is using the privilege and for what.
    By the way, the “valid handicapped placard” just clears the car. Did anyone see the driver?

  • Damian

    Here’s a thought — eliminate ALL NYPD parking placards and issue free train passes or metrocards. We get less congestion and thousands of off-duty cops on our trains and buses during their commutes.

  • Jonathan

    Hilary is right. The problem is the selective enforcement and spoof placards that combined let folks feel free to park anywhere.

    I disagree with Damian, however. Last bus to Warwick, NY (for example) leaves Port Authority at 7:10 p.m. What does the officer who works until midnight do? Sleep on a cot in the precinct and have her kid drive herself to nursery school in the morning? I think Larry’s carpool idea has a lot of merit, but it’s got a lot of hammering out to go yet.

  • Hilary

    How about jitney services to the neighborhoods and towns where many of them live? Let’s not forget Bloomberg’s first bouquet of ferry service from the Rockaways.. Same for construction workers. Despite promises to “hire local” most actually live outside the city and drive in.

  • Here’s my fix: Cops that work overtime should be allowed to take a cab or car service home and submit the receipt just like the employees at all the private equity firms which have filled the ranks of the Bloomberg administration. In the finance and other industries here in NYC, such perks are extended even to the lowest-paid employees required to work overtime. If cops carpool, the owner of the car should get paid something close to what a car service would get paid. That will encourage carpooling and if the driver and passengers share the bounty, that’s fine with me. Stricly limit the reimbursement to those who were truly forced to work OT past 8 p.m. Then completely eliminate the placards for personal vehicles, which account for the vast majority of the government employe parking abuse.

    The spoof placards are a whole different story. Here’s an example of bogus permit abuse by a postal employee:

    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/1125

    I hope Kelly is serious when he says there will be “further prosecution” of people who have been getting away with these fake permits.

  • Jonathan

    Steve and Hilary, that sounds like a plan. Jitneys for citybound commuters during afternoon rush hour and vice versa in the morning, and car service for the tour-three (4×12) folks. I wonder how much it would cost?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Damian, Cops already get a free ride on the trains.

  • Mark

    Two little words: residency requirement.

  • ddartley

    Expand the “smart tag” turnstile entrance program that seems to have been in experimentation phase for six years to every single MTA entrance point, and make the police shield (and other first responder IDs) double as an RFID tag that opens any turnstile (or any entry point), any time.

    Less administrative mess than distributing transitchek metrocards or however they currently do it, and absolutely non-transferrable, unlike a metrocard.

    No, it wouldn’t miraculously stop all (or even most) cops from driving to work, but it could make a cop who normally drives in more likely to consider transit because his “subway pass” is RIGHT THERE ON HIM–AS REQUIRED. Might make him lean ever so slightly more towards choosing a subway ride instead of his car one morning.

    And also, it would enable emergency responders to get into any MTA site instantly–even through unmanned standing turnstiles–rather than stand there, trapped five feet away from a stabbing victim who’s bleeding to death cause neither I nor my partner bothered to carry the stupid metrocards they give us but we didn’t want.

    A 24/7-365 transit pass that you always have on your person is abetter perk than free metrocards (which plenty of them surely don’t use) or free (illegal) parking.

  • JK

    DOT’s green team (Schaller,Orcutt et al) gets lots of credit for getting a Dep Mayor involved and starting a smart process to sort out the rules and figure out what is actually out there. Laudable as it is, this is the beginning of a long haul effort to change an entrenched political culture. A good bet is teachers and DOE service workers lose permits, and things don’t change much for cops and fire fighters. City Hall will have to pick areas for placard enforcement — probably City Hall/Chinatown and Downtown Bklyn. UnCivilservant.org will be busy in March and April when the new permits are issued.

  • Larry Littlefield

    A residency requirement isn’t going to happen. It would require a change in state law, and a change in the contract that the union would be required to agree to.

    A residency bonus, however, could be agreed to on the grounds that those living near their workplace are less likely to quit for a nearby suburban job and more likely to turn up in an emergency. For those from whom extra effort is sometimes received, like teachers, a little extra time after school might be forthcoming from those not facing 90 minutes on the road.

    It’s not just about living in the city. For those working in Manhattan, long walk proximity to a a railstop or ferry would do. Otherwise, credit should be given for living in the borough where you work.

  • Susan

    Why only 20%? ALL permits should be rescinded–after all, it’s not just government workers who need to get to work–we all do. If they’re on official business, they should be in official vehicles, obviating the need for placards. First city workers demand the right to live outside the city, which they get, then they demand the right to privileged parking so they can get to work. Isn’t this the story of the man who murders his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan? Before a single taxpayer is dunned for the regressive congestion tax, every city, state, and federal government parking permit must be revoked, which would get traffic off the roads as well as out of bus stops, fire hydrant areas, no-parking zones, and off sidewalks. If the city is afraid to confront its own, putting them on the already overcrowded public transportation they tout for the rest of us, then they need to reconsider this transparently elitist express service for the well-to-do and well-connected with their endless belief in their own entitlement.

  • Jonathan

    Susan, why stop there? Why pay civil servants at all? Civil servants should be happy to live in New York and toil for free for New Yorkers, the smartest, richest, and most good-looking people on the planet.

  • Susan

    Jonathan–Illegal parking is not a paycheck, as anyone who works for a living and has gotten a ticket for overstanding a meter by 5 minutes without a placard can tell you. Do you really believe laws should not apply to government workers, just everyone else (i.e. those who pay their paychecks)?

  • Cry me a river

    Oh please. Our public employees cry poverty based on their annual salaries — but if their pensions and benefits were annuitized it would be clear that their real incomes are far more generous than the vast majority of us in the private sector. Not to mention the poor slobs like me who are self-employed.

  • I think that’s where Susan stops because that’s where other jobs stop–with a paycheck. Government fringe benefits shouldn’t extend into seizure of public space, just because they can.

    But then I don’t agree with Susan at all that congestion pricing is unfair because it charges everyone the same price to drive, instead of charging the wealthy more. (The place we should scale up for wealth, if anywhere, is on the income tax return where wealth is reported). We already have a “transparently elitist express service” of first class sections in jets going to California, for example. Next to that I can’t summon an inkling of jealousy for people driving cars in Manhattan. Seriously, Susan, you have to live without a car for a while to see it. Driving sucks. Let it go, and we can other people for the “luxury.”

  • Jonathan

    Susan, as you astutely point out, civil servants work for you and me. How do you plan to reduce their benefits wholesale without affecting retention or morale?

  • Susan

    Jonathan–Healthcare is a benefit; retirement is a benefit; paid vacations are a benefit; illegal parking is NOT a benefit and is detrimental to the entire city.

  • Jonathan

    Susan, OK, so your answer to my question in 21 is to redefine benefits. Good luck selling that to the unions.

  • Martin Treat

    Finally, parking gets some attention.

  • Hilary

    It’s not just illegal parking that’s the problem. It’s the unnecessary driving that is being subsidized by the legal and quasi-legal permitting. They are like currency that is being churned out on copy machines in city and home offices. A new counterfeit-proof, “smart” (trackable) permit is the first step. Enforcement can be random if severe enough. Lawyers who break the law they are bound to uphold are disbarred. Doctors who practice without a license? What happens to cops?

  • Jonathan, there is no “redefinition of benefits” needed. Illegal parking is a best a “perk,” not a benfit, like stealing office supplies for home use if you work in an office. It is revocable for any reason at all, and unions will have no recourse under applicable labor laws or under their contracts (none of which specify free parking for personally-owned vehicles of government employees). That doesn’t mean there won’t be some form of collective resistance to this measure, but there is that pesky Taylor Law . . .

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Our public employees cry poverty based on their annual salaries — but if their pensions and benefits were annuitized it would be clear that their real incomes are far more generous than the vast majority of us in the private sector. Not to mention the poor slobs like me who are self-employed.)

    Yes the self employed are screwed in NYC more than anyone else. But before you believe that public employees are better off, make some distinctions. There are four official tiers to the main city pension plan, along with a de facto less generous fifth tier. There are lower wage levels for new hires, less vacation, etc.

    Every time the economy goes up, the pols and unions cut a deal enriching the pensions of those cashing in and moving out. And every bust the union agrees to pay for it with diminished pay and benefits for new hires. That’s why you have high taxes AND the city can’t hire anyone good in public service.

  • ddartley

    It’s a new year, and all I’ve done on this site is repeat comments I’ve already made:

    Cops will NEVER crack down on their own permit abuse (that includes both printing fake ones, AND using real OR fake ones to park in places where NO permit, real or fake, allows you to (e.g., sidewalks)). (Unless, of course, some revolutionary change happens, like they move parking enforcement back to DOT, or they clone 5th Precinct’s Gin Yee a hundred times.)

    Cops cracking down on their own permit abuse is even less likely than a good, strong, congestion pricing plan getting passed.

    Tech-based congestion pricing is the only thing that might affect ALL permit abusers (city employees AND otherwise immune cops) equally, so THAT is a more important thing to pursue than revolutionary enforcement change. I mean, look, there has been some serious and harsh media attention to this issue for at least a year now, and after all that, we get this meager move by the Mayor, which cops are institutionally ignore?

    CP before permit or parking reform.

  • Jonathan

    Steve makes good points, but if the boss tells you to rifle the supply cabinet, you’re a fool to say no. What I’m getting at is that our elected representatives have tacitly endorsed this permit quagmire for the last umpteen years on our behalf. To turn 180 degrees now and say as Susan suggests, “No more permit parking,” is counterproductive to efficiency goals that I as a city taxpayer also endorse.

    I want my cops and teachers to work harder and more flexibly and stay more years on the job (I also want them to treat people fairly, but that’s another issue). Getting rid of all permits is going to affect morale and retention and I don’t think we can just wave it away by saying, “it was wrong to begin with,” since it’s been endorsed forever and even elected officials and upper management have their own permits.

    A definitive resolution of this issue will involve the cooperation of the unions, some of whom at present feel entitled to print up their own permits. Why not bring them into the process and ask them how they would reduce permit abuse instead of antagonizing them outright?

  • Ilia

    Johnathan, unionized city employees get way-above market rate wages. Remove parking placards and a few might leave because they expected more perks, but many people with non-union jobs will be killing to replace them.

  • Jonathan

    Ilia, have you compared the pay scales for suburban teachers or cops lately? Yes, private school teachers in the city get paid less, but they generally have fewer students and teach fewer classes. My point in 17, which you seem to be endorsing with a straight face, was made in jest.

  • Chris H

    Jonathan,

    The last bus to Warwick may leave at 7:10, but if you are driving to New York, you are going to be within 4 miles of the Ramsey R17 P&R where the last connecting train leaves NYP at 12:42 AM.

  • James Goldberg

    There’s also a nice set of train tracks that run right smack through the middle of Warwick and a beautiful old train station, totally intact, that is currently being used by a local real estate brokerage as its office. My friend who lives up there told me that the track is used by just one freight train a day and could easily be hooked back in to the regional rail network via Port Jervis, I think. My friend’s wife, by the way, didn’t like the idea of re-opening the train station. She’s worried it’ll ruin the town’s character which, it seemed to me, had already been pretty well demolished by sprawl and parking lots.

  • Jonathan

    I’m glad someone else on this thread knows something about Warwick. I went there a couple times and thought it was just about the end of the earth. I think my officer pal likes living there in his sprawl development because it’s like the woods compared to midtown Manhattan.

  • doug in norcal

    i don’t live in nyc, but have visited as a lame tourist. all these parking violations seem rather obnoxious. are there any non-legal consequences to pathetic things like parking on sidewalks and in bike lanes? i feel that after seeing the same dipshit parked illegally day after day, someone would key it or something. something physically harmless that just makes a point, “not welcome.” i don’t know if i would do that, but i would consider a sticker or something. does this happen? i’m really curious.

  • doug, many (me included) are sorely tempted to use stickers or some other tangible means to “wage war” on illegal parkers (both gov’t employees and others), but it is illegal in New York city to place a piece of paper or a sticker on someone else’s car, so it generally is not done.

    Thanks to designers and supporters of open-source technology, we do have websites where parking violations are publicized, notably, http://nyc.mybikelane.com/ and http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/ .

    While the posts to MyBikeLane generate little controversy, because the violator usually is unaware of the post, uncivilservants generated tremendous controversy, with commenters on the site claiming to be law enforcement personnel making outrageous threats against those who posted to the site. The administrators of the site eventually adopted pre-screening of comments and removed all the threats and harsh language because things had gotten so bad.

    Jonathan, I and a number of others active on uncivilservants.com would agree with you that it would be foolish to simply take away all public employees parking privileges. There are many different parts of the problem.

    The easiest case are the bogus, homemade permits. There are thousands of people who park illegally with impunity without legitimate permits of any kind. These folks have gotten a free ride by taking advantages of the de facto policy of many Traffic Enforcement Agents to never write a ticket on anyone who appears to be a public employee (whether city, state or federal). See the permit linked in my comment 9 above. The “hands-off” policy towards these bogus permits is disgraceful and should be ended immediately.

    Then there are the tens of thousands of permits churned out by the unions–teachers, firefighters, and certain other unions. I think these have to be looked at more closely, although I think ultimately most of these have to go. Teachers, court clerks and others work regular business hours, rarely face overtime, and should get to work the way the rest of us do. Most folks on uncivilservants favor some kind of a one-time cash-out payment to the cushion the blow of losing the placard.

    In the case of firefighters, who may be detailed to any firehouse in the city, I would sooner opt for paying the taxifare or car fare on an as needed basis than give each firefighter unlimited free parking privileges. I doubt that firefighters get detailed out every day, or even every week. I would far prefer, as a taxpayer, to absorb the cost of occcasional taxi or car fare to get firefighters where they need to be than to give them all free parking privileges, which are subject to abuse 24/7. Here is an example of how one firefighter absues his permit:

    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/521

    As far as NYPD goes, we are told that they are constantly forced to work overtime unpredictably. I would deal with this problem as described in comment #9.

    However I have seen that plenty of NYPD employees who work 9-5 park illegally with or without placards, just like cops doing police work do. The 9-to-5ers should not be getting this benefit. There is also plenty of abuse by cops with their placards–using them to park at their homes, or even using an expired placard as a way to long-term park a second vehicle that they don’t know what else to do with. Here’ an example of a guy who abandoned his car in Central park with an expired NYPD permit for months:

    http://nyc.uncivilservants.org/post/index/646

    After the 9-to-5ers and the clear cases of abuse are dealt with, there may well be situations where placards make sense. But clearly the majority of times a car is parked with a placard, it is not serving any public interest at all.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks, Steve, for the comprehensive roundup. I agree that the spoof permits and the TEA laissez-faire policy should be the first to go.

  • MTA is no good

    I am a city worker and a volunteer for the city.

    My question to the Mayor is this, what are we to do in an emergency, you have been told time and again the current MTA system cannot handle anymore riders? SO now what,reducing the city placards was not the answer reducing the amount of yellow taxis is.

  • The answer to emergency situations is never, ever to put more cars on the road. Remember what happened at Hurricane Rita? Streets get overwhelmed much more quickly than rail networks, and can handle far fewer people per any unit of time. The long-term answer for emergencies is increasing rail capacity. The way to fund that is congestion pricing.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    Lest we not forget – NYC has lost $300-million in parking meter revenue alone due to illegal parking placard abuse.

    I live in Chinatown and in the last 8 months there has been a 90% reduction placard abuse on Mott Street because of No Permit Parking signs. These signs work, plain and simple, and they would work to reduce by many, many thousands the number of government sector vehicles in the City – and, the City would regain $46-million a year [Bruce Schaller 2006] if illegal placard abuse was eliminated. Illegal parking permit abuse CAN be eliminated by the institution of cheap, tin permanent No Permit Parking signs. These signs have been requested by Community Boards 2 and 3 (by unanimous voting) in downtown Manhattan, and Community Board 1 also has this request on the table. Before any consideration of CP, eliminate parking placard abuse with permanent No Permit Parking signs, and then let’s talk. (You do know that congestion pricing will not affect government sector placard holders, don’t you? If you believe that the government sector with parking placards will not be affected, you are delusional!)

    As announced last month – the Mayor’s “working group” monitoring and “enforcing” parking permit regulations will consist of the DOT and NYPD and some developers – this is nothing but the wolf guarding the hen house.

  • I don’t see that you or anyone else can dictate a chronological order for things we talk about and do in NYC. We can talk about congestion pricing before eliminating all illegal parking even by those responsible for enforcing it (anything else, King Eurystheus?), and we can implement it too.

  • haqikah

    I give up I’m parking in the middle of the street.

    http://www.BehindtheApprovalMatrix.com
    http://www.IGotUGGs.com

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    The reason for elimination of permit abuse first is simple. I am completely skeptical about the government sector with permits not being exempt from congestion taxing. Look at the track record, and look at who’s enforcing. For twenty year or more, the D.O.T. and NYPD have looked the other way on permit abuse – what will stop them from ignoring congestion pricing? They are guarding themselves.

  • As the parking problem continues to worsen across North America, all our cities seem to be only exacerbating the problem through ridiculous rate hikes and tarriffs. That’s exactly the reason we launched http://www.parkingspots.com – up in Canada and beginning a US rollout, the site helps people find affordable and convenient parking.
    Here’s to hoping it helps alleviate even a portion of the parking nightmare in our cities!