T.A. Urges Bloomberg Admin to Take the Lead in Parking Reform

dc_parking_map.gif
A map of the area near Washington, D.C.’s new ballpark. Streets with variable-rate or permit parking are in color.

After calling attention last month to the traffic-reducing power of parking reform, Transportation Alternatives has released a follow-up report with a parking prescription for New York. "Pricing the Curb" [PDF] looks to innovative programs underway in Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Chicago for inspiration. With DOT taking steps toward setting variable-rate prices for curbside parking — which it calls "peak rate parking" — the report urges the Bloomberg administration to go further. A full-featured parking policy is one way the city can take on traffic without Albany’s approval.

There’s a lot of good ideas here. For instance, to win public support for curbside prices that will actually achieve vacancy targets (the higher the price, the more spots remain open), T.A. highlights D.C.’s practice of using parking revenue to fund a menu of livable streets improvements, which has won over skeptics. As DOT engages community boards in the development of pilot programs for peak rate parking, a similar solution here could help prevent prices from being watered down.

T.A. also has some advice for the Department of City Planning. While DCP has put few checks on the proliferation of public parking facilities attached to new residential construction, the report notes that San Francisco is specifically targeting off-street parking in its reform effort.

Another highlight: On page 15 there’s a reprint of T.A.’s interview with D.C. council member Tommy Wells, who has made livable streets issues a central part of his platform.  

The full text of T.A.’s five main recommendations comes after the jump.

  1. Raise curbside meter prices and employ variable pricing in key areas
    Metering should be viewed as a tool to reduce double parking and cruising
    for parking. Premium curbside parking in the Manhattan Central Business
    District and adjoining neighborhoods is ten to fifteen times cheaper than
    off-street parking. In contrast, Chicago and San Francisco are introducing
    higher meter prices on thousands of meters in their central neighborhoods,
    and increasing meter hours. New York City business, planning and
    environmental groups recommend that the same should be done here.
  2. Buy more Muni-Meters and try new parking technology
    Modern meters are cheaper to maintain, more reliable, raise more money
    and are better at busting traffic congestion. San Francisco and Chicago are
    investing millions in state of the art parking meters, and electronic sensors
    which monitor curbside occupancy and automatically adjust parking rates.
    Meanwhile, New York City has a severe shortage of popular Muni-Meters,
    and has few meters capable of accepting credit cards.
  3. Set meter rates citywide based on curbside vacancy, not politics
    All three cities in this study are using vacancy targets to determine their
    meter prices. This means they are raising and lowering their meter rates so
    that at least one parking spot per block is always available. This practice
    eliminates most double parking and cruising traffic. In contrast, NYC meter
    rates vary widely depending on the community board and local politics.
  4. Reinvest parking revenue in neighborhood transit, cycling and walking
    Washington D.C. has created an innovative program to return the revenue
    from higher parking meter rates to neighborhood streetscape, bus,
    pedestrian and cycling projects. This has turned neighborhood skeptics
    into supporters of parking reform. Can you think of a few places that need
    sidewalk repair or better bike infrastructure in New York City? This type of
    reform could pay for it.
  5. Monitor, enforce and cap off-street parking
    San Francisco recognizes that more off-street parking means more driving.
    The city is "unbundling" the cost of parking from new residences, reducing
    or eliminating requirements for building parking near transit and exploring
    ride sharing as a way to reduce car ownership and use. In contrast, NYC City
    Planning, which is responsible for setting off-street parking requirements,
    does not know how much off-street parking there is, how much will be
    built, or how much traffic that parking will generate. New York City should
    develop a complete inventory of curbside and off-street parking for every
    borough, and measure the amount of traffic created by that parking. Most
    importantly, New York City needs to establish goals for the amount of
    parking it wants based on environmental and traffic targets.

Image: DDOT

  • This would be great for our “game day parking” problem near Yankee Stadium!

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    Susan, check out (bottom of page) how the Washington Nationals are pricing their parking lots: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/ballpark/parking.jsp. If fans want to park right next to the stadium, they must purchase parking in advance (less idling) and pay $40. But if said fan is willing to park right off the highway, parking is $25 less.

  • JK

    It’s hard to emphasize enough the magnitude of the parking changes that San Francisco and Chicago are contemplating. It’s potentially transformational, like Velibe, but for parking. When it comes to curbside parking reform, these cities are taking the plunge and NYC is putting a little toe in the water.

  • Greener Grass

    I imagine that the fact that SF and these other cities are doing more on parking policy than New York has a lot to do with the fact that NYC had its best planners spending the last two years trying to do more than “get their toe in the water” with congestion pricing. Which place is more ambitious or cutting edge in that light?

    I think the jury is still out on the “magnitude” of the effectiveness of small-increment price changes for curb parking in any of these cities, and on the political will to jack prices to transportation-changing levels.

  • JK

    Green Grass: Agreed that congestion pricing was/is bolder than these parking changes and that one opportunity cost of it failing was top NYC planners were not looking at parking. That helps explain why NYC is behind, and is a reason to believe we can catch up. Only time will tell if SF and Chicago will balk when curbside prices get to a certain level. But both cities are making an explicit commitment to basing prices on curbside vacancy targets, and doing it on a large scale. They are also both speaking explicitly of parking as a form of congestion pricing. Whereas NYC is soft-selling parking pricing as better curb management tool. That’s sensible, but it maybe another cost of congestion pricing losing here. (An important note, that should have been mentioned in the piece, is that Chicago’s plan can still get defeated in City Council. But if it passes, the private operator will be able to raise parking prices in ways previously thought politically impossible.)

  • That link didn’t work, Jeffrey. But I’ll try to find it on google.

  • MKII

    A few further related initiatives to make New York more livable:

    – reduce on-street parking (some streets should only have parking on one side of the street, and others should have no parking at all)

    – widen sidewalks again

    – convert select streets and areas into pedestrian-only zones (deliveries only at limited hours)

    – replace buses with modern light rail systems (quiet, fast, clean, smooth ride) on dedicated lanes so that they do not need to compete with other traffic

    – enforce traffic rules properly against automobiles, trucks, and bicycles

    – ban horn-blowing (except in emergency)

    – ban loud vehicles (for example, motorcycles intentionally modified to make their engines louder)

    – tax gasoline much higher nationwide (up to $8/gallon or more) and use the income to improve public transit and for various environmental programs