Council Considers Eliminating Truck Parking Fines (Update #2)

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UPDATE: Intro 637 has been tabled. There will be no council vote today.

As of this writing, the City Council is scheduled to vote today to codify a Department of Finance program that makes it cheaper — and in some cases free — for commercial trucks to park illegally.

The DOF Stipulated Fine Program, started in 2004, includes a secret fine schedule for
participants which eliminates fines for many parking violations,
including double parking and parking at expired meters. (In other
words, truckers in the program can park forever at an expired meter.) It
also reduces fines for dangerous parking activity like blocking a fire
hydrant, parking in a traffic lane, parking on the sidewalk, blocking a
crosswalk, and parking in a bike lane.

In return, businesses in the program agree not to contest fines for
these and other violations, thereby maximizing revenues for the city
while encouraging illegal parking.

Intro 637, introduced by
David Yassky, David Weprin and Simcha Felder, would convert the
controversial Department of Finance program, which was begun in 2004, from a regulation into a
permanent city law.

City sources say the Stipulated Fine Program is unpopular with NYPD and DOT, as it undermines enforcement and street management efforts and contradicts the city’s sustainability goal of using sound parking policy to reduce traffic and air pollution. The timing of the bill — which appears to be at DOF’s behest — is especially odd, given that such efforts are already hampered by the defeat of congestion pricing, and since DOT and NYPD are beginning to work together on traffic policy. Instead of improving truck access to curbs by encouraging DOT to
raise meter rates during peak periods and meter free parking spaces, the
City Council appears ready to lock in the dysfunction that currently
reins at street level.

UPDATE: Here is a PDF of Intro 637 along with the Stipulated Fine Program violation fee schedule (pages 6-9). On the schedule, the "COMM-ABATT" columns list fines prescribed by the Commercial Abatement Program, which is available to companies that are ineligible for deeper Stipulated Fine discounts. (Column A represents areas outside Midtown; column B is Midtown.) On pages 4 and 5 is a FOIL request submitted to the Department of Finance by Transportation Alternatives, which was necessary to obtain the fee schedule.

Here is City Council testimony by DOF Commissioner Martha E. Stark from February and April.

Photo: kerfuffle & zeitgeist/Flickr

  • Here is DoF Commissioner Martha Stark’s testimony explaining the Stipulated Fine Program. Essentially, DoF sells commercial vehicle operators the right to break the parking laws.

    I was told over the phone by the program administrator that there is no reduced fine for safety violations such as blocking a hydrant, but since the list of fine reductions is not publicized, there’s no way to tell for sure. the program adminsitrator was unable (or unwilling) to tell me whether fines for parking the bike lane are reduced or eliminated under the plan.

    In 2005, it was estimated that the program saved the City $1 million a year in adminsitrative costs, which hardly seems worth it. I suspect that the program actually brings in money by encouraging illegal parking which results in payment of lots of uncontested $25 fines (the amount paid on fines that are merely reduced not completely eliminated under the program). Still not worth it, when you consider the impact on observance of parking rules generally of allowing a large class of vehicles to violate the law with impunity.

    The Program states that participants must agree to make efforts to avoid violating the law, but obvioulsy the effect of the program is to encourage exactly the opposite behavior. I sent DoF a FOIL request seeking information on this and other concerns raised by the program in 2006 and they still are avoiding making any response. I’ll have to ratchet up the pressure in light of this legislation.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Here is DoF Commissioner Martha Stark’s testimony explaining the Stipulated Fine Program. Essentially, DoF sells commercial vehicle operators the right to break the parking laws.”

    I’m searching my memory here. Didn’t the Giuliani admin put this in during the 1990s, at a time when there was very little legal on-street loading space in Midtown? And wasn’t it replaced by the muni-meters? So now we have the muni-meters and loading zones plus illegal double parking?

  • Larry, good point, this DoF program is antithetical to demand-pricing of curbside space.

  • We already have this program in San Francisco. It’s basically a huge bulk discount on illegal parking. The result is predictable: the construction and delivery companies who are part of the program park in every bike lane they can find.

  • Why is Yassky supporting this? I almost wrote a check to support his bid for Comptroller, but not if he’s behind this garbage. I thought he was a big environmental guy…

    These penalties are meant to be punative. The system should operate in exactly the opposite way. A one time offender could be given a warning or have the fine suspended and only reinstated if there is a subsequent violation. A multiple offender should have ESCALTING penalties, not a bulk discount.

  • paul

    excellent points, Jeffrey and Glenn. The city is selling public space at a bulk discount to those who are using it most profligately. to carry (cash and carry?) your analogy further, this program is the Sam’s Club of bad parking behavior. Illegally park in bulk, and save!

  • Yassky, who happens to be my councilman, also supported Quinn’s pedicab ban. Maybe he has an evil twin brother because I cannot understand either of these votes when compared to the hybrid taxi bill and his strong support for CP.

  • Moser

    The PDF shows that fines for parking in bike lanes are reduced in each program, but not hugely. But obviously the whole system eliminates any incentive for truck drivers to care at all about where they park.

  • Geck

    I remember when the plan was put into effect it was presented as, if you agree to not contest certain fines, we will give you a reduced fine that reflects the number of these types of tickets that get thrown out. That way the City and the businesses are spared the administrative expenses of contested tickets but he same amount of money (on average) actual changes hands. If that is still all there is to it, it isn’t quite as evil as you make it sound. They effectively offer this to non-commercial parking tickets as well. After pleading guilty to certain violations, you get an offer of paying a reduced fee to give up your not guilty plea.

    That said, the laws must be based in reality. Clearly delivery trucks need a place to park for short periods in order to make deliveries. Delivery vehicles beat individuals driving to get the stuff-though bicycle delivery should be encouraged. How about reserving curb side space on each block for which delivery companies pay by the minute with a swipe card.
    Alternatively, a fee based permit for delivery vehicles allowing double parking for very limited periods (5 min max), provided the parked vehicles do not block traffic (specific regs)-with high fines for violating the rules.

  • Ed

    Oh it’s so infuriating! So right Glenn – fines for violations should escalate each time they are repeated. I think ALL city fines for ALL violations should DOUBLE every time they are repeated – parking violations, building violations, health violations, etc.

    You hear so many stories about so and so having dozens of violations before someone gets killed. At maybe a hundred bucks a pop, these violations may be no big deterrent. But if that fine doubled each time, after a $100 violation has been issued 12 times, instead of being $1,200, it’s $409,500!

  • John Kaehny

    Geck. I disagree. This program is “evil.” You don’t solve a problem by creating another problem. DOF’s “Stipulated Fine” reduces fines to zero for truckers who double park, overstay expired meters, park in taxi stands, park in blue zones and park during street cleaning. That is a big deal. Yes trucks should have priority for curb space. Yes, meter rates and regs should be designed to give trucks curb access. But it is wrong, short-sighted and weak willed for the city to “legalize” dangerous double parking and other parking violations while it does nothing about the fundamental problem, which is grossly underpriced curb space.

  • Geck

    John, I actually don’t disagree if the program is as you describe it (reducing fines to zero). My point was that is not how it was presented initially (at least as far as I can recall). I think we are also in agreement that a real solution must be created, where the use of the streets and parking should be rational and paid for in an above-the-board way, not through parking tickets-reduced or otherwise.

  • ddartley

    Good, maybe now trucks will totally overrun Class II bike lanes, and bicyclists will lose the dangerous delusion that they’re safe places to ride, and will instead take up a car lane–and go as SLOW as they want!

    Without radical street surgery, it’s the only way to reclaim rights and space.

  • John Kaehny

    Geck. Agreed that Stark originally presented this as a measure to make life easier for DOF and truckers alike by eliminating dealing with traffic court. But from the onset DOF and City Hall were ignoring the impact of this project on core transportation policy issues like traffic flow, street safety and curb management. You’re also right that the fine reduction for bike lanes is modest ($115 to $100 or $105.)But take a look at the whole fine schedule at the pdf above. They are selling passes to do lots of illegal — and dangerous — parking. (You don’t need to be in a bike lane to be endangered by a double parked truck.) Incidentally, the schedule was never posted on the DOF website and was only available to participants in the program. Government policies involving fines and public space should not be secret.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Schizophrenia isn’t unique and particular to Yassky, whadaboud Bloomberg?

  • Double Parker

    Correct me if i am wrong, but i thought it was legal to double park a truck outside of midtown.

  • a.v.

    The pipedream solution to the truck parking issue is mass transit for cargo. Not every dinky little store needs to have their own fleet of half-empty box trucks making daily deliveries. You have distribution centers located outside the main business areas and move less-than-truckload shipments in reusable cargo containers (like the intermodal containers used on container ships but sized for local deliveries). Charge flat, affordable rates per container. Use long articulated trucks to make a single delivery for each block once or twice or three times each day. We move people and garbage this way, why not goods? Highly time-sensitive deliveries could be made by licensed couriers. Full truckload and temperature-senitive deliveries could be made during off-hours only. Everything else would be banned or tolled heavily to enter at all.

  • Ken

    The NY Trucking & Delivery Association represents many small businesses that use the stipulated fines programs. Much of the information it seems that your readers has had made available to them appears to be incomplete at best. Your Reader John seems to be the only one that has some idea as to how the programs work. As per: His Comment by Geck — April 30, 2008 @ 3:53 pm.

    If you would like the truth about these programs and accurate assessments please visit: http://www.nytda.net/newsltrs/Publication2_stipulated_fines.pdf

    Our association does believe in the causes of public safety and environmentally conscious people. We do ask that you seek solutions that are relevant and are not knee jerk reactions that are not going to solve the problems you would like them to but only harm people and businesses who are not your enemy. The infrastructure and manner in which is managed is the problem here, not the choices people have in adjudicating parking tickets.

    The stipulated fines program reduces tickets consistent with actual hearings; it never reduces parking tickets to zero unless the vehicle is double parked (except midtown) for unloading which is allowed by law no matter what program or service is used to adjudicate them even stipulated fines. Bike lanes, Fire Hydrants, Bus Stops, Cross Walks, Ped Ramps etc are all charged full fine less only ten dollars to account for the very small percentage that would have been otherwise dismissed. As said above: More at: http://www.nytda.net/newsltrs/Publication2_stipulated_fines.pdf

    You have our support, we would appreciate yours.

    Ken Thorpe
    Chairman
    NYTDA

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Ken,

    Your members park their trucks in bike lanes hundreds, perhaps, tens of hundreds of times per day across New York City.

    This irresponsible action by truck drivers endangers cyclists, forcing them to veer off and merge into motor vehicle traffic.

    Have you ever done anyhing to inform your members of the danger of double-parking and unloading in bike lanes?

    Have you ever done anything to push for curbside parking reform or to advocate for physically protected bike paths located between the parked cars and the sidewalk?

    How exactly do you “support” livable streets advocates?

  • Ken

    Marty,

    You are right, it is a dangerous practice and yes, we do not only inform our member drivers but we also have a best parking practices seminar which is designed to help them understand safe parking practices better. Truth is we have a long way to go in a difficult City whose infrastructure taxes our movement as people and businesses. I must point out that the program does not reward a driver when they park in a Bike Lane, in fact it, along with other safety violations, gives them nothing except a token 10 bucks which accounts for the small percentage a Judge would award anyway. The point is, the program is not the problem, the problem needs to be addressed by solutions in availability of safe and available parking for companies to deliver goods and services to us all.

    We are actually looking at Curbside Parking as well as other solutions to create a program we can get behind and will support it or any other reasonable solutions that are not designed as punishment for an industry that serves us all and has a harder time, than you probably appreciate, working in NYC. Insofar barricades are concerned, not sure if creating more concrete in this city is going to help or even if it is physically possible to do without making things worse, that said more ideas, maybe more solutions.

  • Ken, the TEA issuing the summonses generally don’t recognize the difference between double parking and double parking in the bike lane. If they did, you would see more violations for bike lane parking. The TEA are incentivized to write as any summonses as possible, but they only rarely issue summonses for bike lane parking. I know this from looking at the lists of summonses of chronic bike lane violators and other sources.

    Also, there are delivery workers who deliberately seek out bike lanes as a place to park because they can expect them to be clear, even when they could equally well double park in front of the addresses to which they are making deliveries. These Fedex guys park in the Central Park West bike lane across the street from their delivery destination every morning, six days a week. I have spoken to them about it but they won’t move. They like the extra room available in the bike lane as a place to sort their packages prior to delivery. And, I suppose, if they were to park in front of the residences to which they deliver, the residents and doormen might complain. I can tell you from personal experience, and based on these ~200 posts of illegal parking by FedEx–some of which document attempts to involve the company in addressing the illegal parking by drivers–Fedex does not care about illegal and dangerous parking by its drivers. Individual drivers routinely rack up thousands >in fines, and nothing changes. UPS and are no different. I end up paying for this illegal parking twice–once as a bicyclist, then a second time as a consumer because of the heightened shipping costs these companies pass through to me based on the (reduced) fines needlessly incurred because their drivers so often don’t even attempt to find legal parking.

    The DoT’s description of the Stipulated Fine Program states that it “requires participating companies to make good-faith efforts to comply with New York City Traffic Rules.” In December 2006 I sent DoF a FOIL request for “all records referring to or evidencing the termination of any participant in the [Stipulated Fine] Program from the Program, based on a participant’s failure “to make good-faith efforts to comply with New York City Traffic Rules.” The DoF finally responded after 17 months, notifying me last week that “there are no records responsive to your request.” That means DoF has never terminated a participant from the Stipulated Fine Program for failing to attempt to follow the law. It is not surprising that bicyclists–who daily bear the brunt of this system of officially sanctioned illegal and dangerous parking–are not convinced by statements of good intentions when the reality is so demonstrably different.

  • Ken

    BiBicyclesOnly,

    Not withstanding anything you said, the need for better parking practices and the need for real solutions is a fact. But, the issue of the stipulated fines program versus no program is an issue that has no relative effect on these issues. Here is why; without the program the big companies you discuss would and did use attorneys, ticket brokers and centralized adjudications before the program ever existed, the results at the end-of-the-day were and are that they would pay about the same amount overall, of reduced fines without the program; but here is the kicker, safety related violations were as often dismissed as non-safety violations by judges given a defense. This is not the case with stipulated fines, where the safety violations get only minimally reduced and non-safety violations get greater reductions, so the program encourages not parking in safety violation areas which includes Bike Lane.

    It is not the program. The issues you are concerned about can only be relieved through better training, which we are working hard on and better parking availability for delivery solutions, that together we can agree on and request our legislators to enact.

    Also, we represent many small business trucking, delivery and service companies and owner operators who are not the giants you discuss, these are people who live and work here and it is them that get hurt, not the huge national companies.

    To my knowledge our outreach to you and your fellow Bikers may be a first from any organization in this business, it is my desire that through communication we can reduce miss-information, target issues and find the solutions that match the issues.

    Ken

  • Ken, institutionalizing the Stipulated Fine Program is the last thing we want to do. If you were correct that it discouraged participants from safety violations in the bike lane, then we would see these commercial courier delivery vehicles double-parked parked opposite rather than in the bike lane. Bike lanes are few and far between, there are almost always open spaces for double-parking directly opposite a bike lane, especially in residential neighborhoods. But the actual effect of the program is to lead these guys to just park wherever the hell they please without regard for the consequences. They simply don’t care. The best you can say is that the program has not had an effect because these guys have never given a damn where they park.

    As for the “big guys” versus operators of smaller fleets, why don’t you give me some examples of smaller fleet operators and we’ll see if they have ended up on MyBikeLane. My guess is they have, even though that site only shows the tip of the iceberg in terms of bike lane parking in NYC. It is the big guys one would expect to have the most professional and effective training programs, not the smaller operators. If Fedex can’t get it together enought to train its drivers not to incur thousands in tickets, how will Joe’s Trucking Inc.?

    For the record, and as I have commented here previously on many occasions, I believe the solution is a dramatic expansion of dedicated curbside parking spaces for commercial deliveries, including on residential streets. The remaining parking spaces (at least in densely developed areas) should be largely or completely converted to non-commercial long-term metered parking carefully priced to market so that everyone pays for the “free” parking space they get.

  • Ken

    BicyclesOnly

    I am going to keep this short as I think in my first posting I clearly stated what stipulated fine does and does not do. I do not disagree with your concerns and I am becoming a supporter of such programs as Curbside Parking Space expansion and other ideas as well.

    I do not understand your comment however “that institutionalizing the Stipulated Fine Program is the last thing we want to do” because if you gave me the same respect I am giving you, you would understand that it has nothing to do with the problem or solutions you seek. It is merely an alternative adjudication process that does work and does not do what you think it does. I am the foremost authority on this subject and I am being completely honest about everything I have said, including seeing your concerns and views, but on this you are making conclusions based on anger about the real problems and targeting a bill that will not help you, only hurt others.

  • Ken, you seem to think the SFP is a “win-win” program because commercial vehicle operators pay less for parking illegally while the city saves on administrative costs. In my view it is “win-lose-lose”: The operators win because they pay less. The city loses because is saves a measley $1 million in estimated adminsitrative costs which is almost certainly far less than the amount in revenue from fines it is losing. (As the “foremost authority” Ken, do you have any recent statistics on the amount fine revenue that has been forgiven under the program?) Most importantly, the people–bicyclists, motorists, bus patrons, residents–lose big time, due to the congestion and danger caused by illegally parked trucks.

    It is irrefutable that a reduction in the fine creates an incentive to break the law. The fact that the more dangerous parking violations result in smaller reductions than other violations is hardly a reason to support a codification of the the program. There are reductions under the program for parking in the bike lane, blocking a fire hydrant, taking a “handicap only” space, and parking on the sidewalk and crosswalk. As any NYC resident knows, when people see trucks breaking these laws, they feel more comfortable committing the same violations with cars. The program generates lawlessness and creates danger.

    And the reason we need the program is because trucks need relief from parking fines? Costs which they pass on to customers 100%? Only with full enforcement of the parking laws against trucks will trucking companies have an incentive to avoid incurring fines in the first place. With relief from the fines–even partial relief–improved compliance with parking rules will have less effect on the bottom line, and therefore the incentive to comply will be less.

  • Funny how employees never understand the challenges of employers operating their business especially in a place like NYC.  Parking tickets can ruin a company, causing loss of jobs and hurting the economy.  But employees just care for their paycheck never the company that writes them.

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