Council Committee Endorses Residential Parking Permits Over DOT Objections

Then-Council Member David Yassky examines the proposed design for a residential parking permit system put forward by the Bloomberg administration in 2008.

A City Council committee took the first step toward bringing residential parking permits to New York City neighborhoods this afternoon. Details haven’t been worked out yet, but committee members signaled their desire to move forward on a system that would restrict a portion of curbside parking space to use by local residents.

While most council members wanted to see residential parking permits brought to neighborhoods across the city, the Department of Transportation opposed RPP except perhaps in the areas immediately around stadiums.

The action in the City Council today marked an early milestone in what would be a complicated path to passage. The State and Federal Legislation Committee, chaired by Council Member Helen Foster, passed a home rule resolution allowing state legislation sponsored by State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Joan Millman to move forward. If passed, the Squadron/Millman bill would then authorize New York City to set up its own RPP program with a few restrictions. The city would still have to work out the details and pass an actual program.

The Bloomberg administration opposed the first step in that process today, testifying against the home rule amendment and the Squadron/Millman bill. While the administration had put forward an RPP system during the push for congestion pricing in 2008, today officials said that a citywide RPP program wouldn’t be worth the trouble if it’s decoupled from road pricing. Council members, meanwhile, expressed high expectations for how RPP might alleviate the traffic and parking woes in their districts.

Foster, the bill’s sponsor, argued that her district needs RPPs are needed in her district, which is just a block from Yankee Stadium. On game days, she said, Yankee fans’ parked cars block residents from finding a parking space in their own neighborhood or even being able to walk safely. Foster said cars can regularly be found on the sidewalk and in front of hydrants during home games. Fans fill up the on-street spaces despite the thousands of empty spaces in the city-subsidized Yankee Stadium parking system. “If I could park on the sidewalk, why would I pay $45 to park in a garage?” asked Foster.

Almost every council member in attendance supported the RPP concept. Parking permits are “a long time coming,” said Stephen Levin, who noted that his Downtown Brooklyn constituents had been clamoring for an RPP program for years. The district has “a real danger with cars driving around looking for a space,” he added. Letitia James, whose district includes the Atlantic Yards site, said that RPPs would ease congestion, protect pedestrians and reduce air pollution. James Vacca, the East Bronx-based transportation committee chair, said that parking permits would encourage the use of mass transit, “which is what we want in this city.” Brad Lander called RPP “the one piece of public policy that can make a difference” on Atlantic Yards traffic.

DOT representatives disagreed, arguing that RPPs should be limited to the area immediately surrounding stadiums, if put in place at all. “Where RPP has worked, it has generally been in cities with low densities and less demand for curb parking,” argued DOT Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs David Woloch. In New York City, he said, RPPs would have “enormous potential for unintended consequences.” Because New York City has so many cars and so little on-street parking, Woloch said residents would purchase permits but still have no guarantee of finding a parking space. He also said that in other cities with RPP programs, such as Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the cost of administering the program exceeds the revenues.

Woloch’s critiques included both concerns with the concept and implementation of RPPs. He argued that an opt-in system would create “a sense of exclusion between adjacent neighborhoods.” And he said that striking the right balances in setting the boundaries of RPP zones would be too difficult. He also took issue with some of the specific provisions of Squadron and Millman’s bill. The legislators want to use the proceeds of the RPP program to help fund transit, for example, but Woloch argued that would saddle the city with implementation costs without any offsetting revenues.

That said, NYC DOT is in the process of completing studies on the use of RPPs within half a mile of Yankee Stadium and the new Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, two locations with some of the most insistent calls for permits. “DOT does believe that the benefits of RPP may be worth the costs in areas with a very large trip generator,” said Woloch. The studies are set to be completed early next year.

Most Council Members did not want to limit RPPs to stadium areas, however. Upper Manhattan rep Robert Jackson said that his district merited inclusion in any RPP system due to the large number of commuters coming off the George Washington Bridge. “They drive in across the bridge and park there all day long,” said Jackson. “Stadiums are not the only concern.” Elizabeth Crowley, too, said that her neighborhood could use a permit system despite the lack of sports arenas.

Woloch said that neighborhoods like Jackson’s would have been part of the city’s RPP plan when it was paired with congestion pricing. That was different, Woloch argued, because then the city worried that neighborhoods outside the congestion pricing zone would be park-and-rides. “Not would be,” shot back Jackson. “It is.”

The only City Council Member to speak out against the proposal was southern Brooklyn rep Lew Fidler, who seemed to have forgotten about both the city’s extensive transit system and the existence of metered parking. Wealthy communities will opt into the system, Fidler argued, at which point “you might as well put a gate up around them.” He also worried that RPPs would send New York slipping down “this slope of charging people to park on the streets.”

For their part, residents testifying made clear that they didn’t expect a RPP system to guarantee them parking, contrary to the city’s argument. RPP is “a tool to reduce demand for local streets, not a guarantee of parking for local residents,” said the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council’s Gib Veconi. He said that 3,000 vehicles are expected to look for free parking on residential streets during Barclays Center events and that an RPP system could discourage them from driving.

Added Jo Ann Simon, a Democratic district leader, “We want to make sure we are not completely overrun, that our children are not killed crossing the street, and that we can breathe.”

While most of those testifying came in support of the RPP concept, some disagreed. “Our church members come from all five boroughs” said Antonio Rodriguez, representing Downtown Brooklyn’s First Baptist church. A residential permit parking system, he said “would unfairly discriminate against our church” and interfere with what he called their First Amendment right to free worship.

  • Ian Turner

    Please go down the slope of charging people to park on the streets.

  • Jack the RPPer

    If Lew Fidler won’t let me have a parking permit, where will I park one of his magic-bullet fuel-cell cars?

  • Glenn

    RPP can absolutely be de-coupled from Congestion Pricing. As documented many times, lots of neighborhood traffic is just people cruising for free curbside spots. Sending the message that if you drive to a destination, you will pay for parking either in a private garage or a curbside meter, would absolutely cut traffic congestion.
     
    I would suggest vastly increasing the number of metered spots in RPP zones.
     
    One of best side benefit of RPP is weeding out all the non-NYC drivers. Or getting people to register their car here, pass inspection here and pay for their insurance as a NYC driver.
     
    The worst case scenario for RPP would also be to under-price the permits or limit their number and keep the price artificially low, like rent control for parking… 
     

  • J

    It’s all about bargaining chips. However, I don’t think it is New Yorkers that need to be convinced of congestion pricing, it the suburbanites and their elected officials. NYC electeds approved congestion pricing last time, and I believe they’ll do it again, with or without RPP. Why hold the parking spaces hostage and keep our streets congested, if there is an obvious solution?
     
    If the costs outweigh the revenue, than raise the fees. The yearly price of a parking permit in DC, Chicago, and Boston is $35, $25, and $0, respectively. I’m sure people would be willing to pay MUCH more than that in NYC for a decently available spot in their neighborhood. Compared to garages and actual demand, it’s a steal. You could let neighborhood decide if they want RPP or not.  You could also give discounts or waive fees for low-income individuals with a demonstrated need for on-street parking, such as a job in a transit-poor suburban location or the need to use a car for work (delivery or taxi drivers).

    I see no reason to further delay this effort, and I see it as a sort of congestion pricing of its own, by reducing the amount of free parking open to people coming in from outside a neighborhood. This should be pushed forward with all due speed.

  • J

    Also, with support from both big hitters like Vacca, Levin, and James, this is pretty likely to pass. I’m also glad to hear Vacca pushing for measures that encourage the use of transit. Sure, curmudgeons like Fidler will oppose anything that makes it harder to drive everywhere, but I’d bet most of his car-owning constituents are in favor of RPP as well.

  • Anonymous

    Without enforcement, residential parking permits are useless.

    Why would churchgoing drivers worry about residential parking permits? Every Sunday, I see them double park, park on top of crosswalks and next to fire hydrants without any consequences. Parking without a permit seems trivial in comparison.
    Same for the stadium. If people can reportedly get away with illegal parking now, it’s because it’s not enforced. How would permits help?

  • Mark

    Congestion Pricing and RPP are both good ideas.   It makes no sense to tie a very valid politically popular idea to the much more complicated political beast that is congestion pricing.   RPP is a non-issue in the congestion pricing debate.   Tying RPP to congestion pricing only hurts RPP without helping congestion pricing 

  • J

    @8f996ad67f04aec5edcfbc5070d76441:disqus: Very eloquently and succinctly put. I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    We mustn’t go down the slippery slope of charging people to take transit.  You might as well put turnstiles around the entrances to subway stations!

  • Ian Dutton

    Here’s the problem: the perception that parking in one’s own neighborhood is a big f’in pain in the ass is what keeps car ownership rates so low in the city. That there is so much free curbside parking is why car ownership rates are as unsatisfactorily high as they are.

    But introduce the perception that you are entitled to park your car in a free curbside spot for the slight price of a residential permit encourages more people to own and drive a car than do today.

    How is that anything more than bad? Maybe non-locals will be further discouraged from driving, but it would be hard for me to believe that would offset the effect of more locals owning & operating.

  • Jackalampm

    Benanti/Brooklyn HeightsAll of downtown brooklyn must be included as it is in Boston & DC to name a few. We spend hours looking to park in front of our own homes which we deliberately bought and moved to years ago, so that we could take advantage of what the city has to offer as urban dwellers, only to find that our elected officials have made it a chore to live here. The pollution & wasted hours every year alone driving around so that hundreds of federal, state and city employees can use their BS parking permits and the rest of the suburban commuters who come in from S.I, L. I., NJ can come early in the morning everyday while we are busy taking care of our families and confiscate our parking to take the subway to work or to shop or to see Broadway shows must stop. If they want to give up their lawns, driveways & clean air they can move to the city themselves…REMEMBER WE STAYED – THEY LEFT…this must stop. GIVE US OUR PARKING PERMITS. We should probably make Permits available to ALL NYC residents, but especially downtown Brooklyn, downtown Queens & uptown Manhattan…It’s about time that the Visitor’s pay to use NYC garages not us locals.

  • Jkspinning

    The RPP should include a private property removal contract (towing).

  • Joe R.

    I disagree that RPPs are going to encourage car ownership by guaranteeing car owners parking spaces.  Owning a car is a very expensive proposition.  In addition, many city residents get along without a car just fine. I’m not seeing that people like me are going to suddenly start wanting to own cars just because they can now reserve a parking spot near where they live.  There will still be the problem of parking the car wherever they’re traveling to.  Besides, quite a few city residents don’t even have driver’s licenses.  Many have little desire to get them.

    What residential parking permits will do once and for all is to end the scourge of suburban commuters who drive in partway, congest city roads in the process, park in residential ares, then take the subway the rest of the way.  Not only do these people uglify the streets with their parked vehicles, but they frequently dump their garbage on people’s lawns.  Now these suburban commuters will be faced with one of two choices-drive all the way in and deal with Manhattan parking prices and road congestion, or use park-and ride near commuter rail stations close to where they live.

    It goes without saying that if a RPP system is put in place, then renting out your space should be forbidden.  Either the space is occupied by a car registered to someone in the nieghborhood, or it remains empty.  Down the road, as each space becomes unused because the car owner either dies or moves, it should be removed from the pool of available spaces.  The eventual goal should be to forbid on-street parking citiwide.  Besides being an eyesore, cars parked on the street severely hamper visibility at intersections.  Cars parking or looking for parking delay and congest traffic.  Off-street parking should be the rule citiwide.

  • Hallam Jon

    Hey,

    We need to be a bit careful with RPPs, which are not a panacea. Obviously, the best case is for everyone to live on top of where they work (or to use transit). But failing those, leaving ‘my’ car outside my house all day and walking to work is functionally identical to ‘you’ parking outside ‘my’ house, and ‘me’ outside ‘yours’ whilst we’re both at work, then swapping back when we’re at home. Put another way, we don’t want to be in a situation where we go from having one parking space per car, which gets traded around as needed, to a situation where we need both a home and a work parking space per car.

    Still, in this case it seems like there’s a couple of strong asymmetries: First with lots of people parking need the stadium, and second with people from suburbs driving into the denser districts.

    NB: Regarding anyway-illegal parking on curbs or blocking hydrants – passing new law or regulation won’t prevent these things. People who disobey existing rules will likely also disobey the new ones. Enforcement is required instead (although you may achieve economies of scale by enforcing both together).

    Yours,

    JMH

  • Gowanus Matt

    Bring in an RPP system and make it as expensive (or nearly so) as parking in a garage on a monthly basis. It is ridiculous that we give away so much precious real estate. The city may as well benefit.

  • Larry Littlefield

    While it’s true that the difficulty of parking is one thing keeping down car ownership, a residential parking permit with a fee would not change that.  

    Unless the number of permits were fixed in areas where parking is scarce, as I have suggested.  In which case the lack of a permit would keep down car ownership.  Those moving in would have to accept that they couldn’t have a car until a permit were given up, and available.

     “Our church members come from all five boroughs” said Antonio Rodriguez, representing Downtown Brooklyn’s First Baptist church. A residential permit parking system, he said “would unfairly discriminate against our church” and interfere with what he called their First Amendment right to free worship.”

    Note that I have only proposed residential permits for OVERNIGHT PARKING, not parking for visitors during the day.  But the resident-only period should start soon enough to discourage an influx of parkers to a night game, taking up residents’ spaces.  I wouldn’t want my family members to receive tickets for driving to Thanksgiving Dinner at our house.  That’s not the problem.

  • Tsuyoshi

    The number of permits should not only be capped, but the permits should be auctioned off every year.

  • J

    @IanD_NYC:disqus I think that RPP will make it easier to park in your own neighborhood but harder to park everywhere else. Marty Golden and Lew Fidler are right on that account, and I believe this will reduce driving overall. Generally speaking, this will allow the city to know and regulate the number of cars parked on its streets, which will give it more control over that number. It may also reduce circling, since people will know that entire streets are basically off-limits to them. This could also bring in a real push for smart metering systems from businesses and extensions to metered areas, to ensure that the customers that do drive can easily find a parking space. Sure, it’s a new can of worms, but the experience from other cities that use it does not indicate a spike in driving or car ownership. If anything, there tend to be slightly fewer cars parked on the streets in areas with RPP, indicating lower car ownership.

  • J

    @IanD_NYC:disqus I think that RPP will make it easier to park in your own neighborhood but harder to park everywhere else. Marty Golden and Lew Fidler are right on that account, and I believe this will reduce driving overall. Generally speaking, this will allow the city to know and regulate the number of cars parked on its streets, which will give it more control over that number. It may also reduce circling, since people will know that entire streets are basically off-limits to them. This could also bring in a real push for smart metering systems from businesses and extensions to metered areas, to ensure that the customers that do drive can easily find a parking space. Sure, it’s a new can of worms, but the experience from other cities that use it does not indicate a spike in driving or car ownership. If anything, there tend to be slightly fewer cars parked on the streets in areas with RPP, indicating lower car ownership.

  • Isaac B

    RPP programs overlook and penalize people who don’t own cars, but often need to rent them. My wife and I, for instance. We don’t own cars, but often rent for travel. More often than not, we need to take the car out the night before an early morning trip, or park the car overnight prior to a return.

    How do we manage that when our rental (which is likely from “elsewhere”) doesn’t have a resident sticker?

  • Anonymous

    I lived in Berkeley CA during college (early 90s), where they have residential parking permits.  As I recall, there were temporary guest permits you could lend to visiting family members.  It was still insanely hard to park, but maintained some semblance of order and prevented people from storing their cars in town.  At the time I think they were $25 or so–don’t remember the details–and you had to bring in some proof of residency.

    Unless the permits are revoked and re-auctioned every year by the city, I don’t see how capping them will do anything other than make them like taxicab medallions (which sell for way more than half a million dollars at this point) to be hoarded by a few for profit.  Even an auction might mean the brownstone owning, driveway having, bike lane fighting 1% in my hood will still park their multiple SUVs everywhere while the rent stabilized apartment dwelling, 6 bike having but needing a car for small business owning poors like me will be shit out of luck.  I’m all for overnight permits, but I’d rather it be based on a flat fee and residential address, like admission the the prestigious PS 321, not like admission to Berkeley Carroll.  I love the idea of the fees being earmarked for pubic transport, pedestrian and bike lane improvements in each area, but that seems like it might be a tough sell when every budget is crying for money.

  • vnm

    Isaac B’s point is one reason why the RPP program shouldn’t take the form of a sticker. Parking privileges could be distributed through portable slips that hang down from one’s rear view mirror, or, oh God, placards. However it’s done, the important thing isn’t which individual vehicles get to park, but the overall number. And car non-owners shouldn’t be penalized.

  • Hm…

    So the NYPD refuses to enforce parking regulations around Yankee Stadium, so the solution is more parking regulations?

  • Driver

    I agree with vnm, but the problem with this is that cars with removable parking passes will be targets for break-ins and theft of the pass. 

  • Anonymous

    If the main goal of RPP is to allow the city to monetize the resource of street space, then the price should be allowed to increase each year until there is no longer excess demand.  This will allow the city to capture maximum revenue, while having the side effect of reducing vehicle ownership.

    If, instead, the main goal is to reduce use of street space by cars, then the city should issue a set number of permits at a set cost, allow them to be transferrable in a secondary market, and reduce the number of permits over time.  This would function like the proposed cap-and-trade carbon credits.  Eventually, those left with permits would be those who get the most benefit from on-street parking, and the amount of space allocated to car parking would be explicitly set for each neighborhood.

    Visitors, people with rental cars, and others who need to park in the area for a short stay could be accommodated through metered parking that is open to anyone.

  • RPP should guarantee local residents discounted rates on metered parking on their street. Anywhere there is over 85% parking spot usage (Shoup), there ought to be meters, and local residents should get to park longer for the same amount of time. Say a resident gets 24 hours for $1, whereas a visitor gets only 2 hours for the same $1. Even residents should pay something to park their cars on the street in front of their homes, but not much.

  • Sorry, residents should pay something EACH TIME they park in front of their homes, but not much.

  • Alex

    Meterd parking is in commercial areas and is separate from RPP.  What needs to be done is control the placard abuse by our “above the law” cops and firemen who abuse the system left and right.  But to monitor meter rates for different users is misguided and also unworkable.

    In Stockhom they charge $100/month for on-street parking so we should not give it away. There is a definite cost to maintain/clean/police the streets that parkers should pay for.  And NYC residency, registration and insurance should be mandatory (maybe with a benefit of increased local taxes).  Stickers with license plate number printed on it would discourage theft.
     
    For visitors over two hours (or whatever the limit is) let them use parking garages, like you are forced to do in Boston.  And take the train/subway/bus into the city anyway.
     
    As for the church complaints, I feel that parking meters should be in effect on Sundays as you now have people squatting at meters from Saturday evening until Monday mornings.  And it shows political favoritism to christians in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city.  Separation of church and state and all that.
     
    I hope this goes through.  Then we need to toll the East & Harlem River bridges to pay for their maintenance.  Whoever made the comment about the VNB tolls being waived once it was paid for clearly does not understand the cost of maintenance.  The city is paying something like $600 million to replace the WIllis Ave bridge and connect it directly to the Deegan.  CRAZY.  Toll that bridge immediately to recoup that cost.

  • Wcruz

    What benefit with this RPP program do? How will DOT enforce these drivers poching on the neighborhoods parking? I agree the plan may work for areas that have stadiums, but for the rest of the city and neighborhoods. No way. This will become a major issue if RPP are giving out in all communities that desire them. I assure you there will be a few instances of violence and possibily one death when and if this is a pproved.  The city needs to cut back on fifteen minute spots, They need to allow cars to park where there is parking and for those residents who complain about th elack of parking. How about you take up one space rather than one and a half space, that’s what causes difficulties in parking.

  • Hogwash!

    WOW. Reading the comments. Are you people New Yorkers? You actually want this RPP shit. No, no no. You get parking when you find it, and you deal with it when you can’t. I can’t believe people actually want this. Don’t you understand, it will start off as a system to help, and than, when the city is low on money, you are the ones that are going to get fucked because they are going to raise the rates, and the summons and may even enforce by towing. Stop trying to park on your block, it wont’ kill you to walk a few blocks. This RPP is just another way to rob the workers of NYC, and of course, the ones that will feel the hurt are the underclass worker, those who aren’t making 75-100 thousand a year salary. Its going to be the blue collar stiff who will be hit the hardest. Personally, I say F the RPP and deal with the lack of parking issues.

  • Anonymous

    Transferable permits will lead to all kinds of shenanigans.  I don’t think the idea is to make parking easier, necessarily, but to put a price on the privilege of leaving your private property in the public space while fighting abuse of that privilege by commuters. Obviously, there are a lot of details that need to get sorted out, and any number or potential complications.  In Park Slope, for example, much of the parking is taken up 24 hours by hospital employees, so I’m sure they’ll ask for some kind of exception, and the residents will be left paying to park in their own neighborhood while the poor (sic.) doctors who drive in will park for free.  Hello placard abuse 2.0.  The city already had to clamp down on rampant film-permit abuse, and it is nearly impossible to get one for a car anymore.  I think it is safe to assume that the bright, enterprising people of New York will immediately figure out any number of way to game the system.  Remember when Metrocards were first introduced?

  • i like that a On game days, she said, Yankee fans’ parked cars block residents from
    finding a parking space in their own neighborhood or even being able to
    walk safely.

  • “The eventual goal should be to forbid on-street parking citiwide.  Besides being an eyesore, cars parked on the street severely hamper visibility at intersections.”

    Terrible idea. Parked cars:

    a. provide a buffer of safety between moving cars and pedestrians on the sidewalk
    b. slow down vehicular traffic as people wont drive as fast if they are a few feet from a row of parked cars as compared to having nothing to hit on either side

    And what would you do with the parking lanes. Convert them to more moving lanes I suppose. That would just lead to even more speeding. Does 3rd Avenue through the UES and Harlem for example really need 7 lanes of one-way traffic. Because thats what would happen if you turned the parking lanes into moving lanes.

    As far as hampering visibility at intersections, they can be daylighted through neckdowns and other measures.

  • Mp_me

    RPP will become a reveue stream for the city. It always happens, it will happen.
    Plus…..even though people are saying they would not expect a spot if they have a RPP….they will expect one. Many people will be driving around with a RPP they paid for ( and they will have to be paid for) not getting a spot, because the city will not be able to enforce the rules, and drivers will find out very quickly that they can park wherever they want with no tickets being issued.

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