On Monday we published the revised schedule for this week’s City Council hearing in James Vacca’s transportation committee. Out with oversight of the MTA budget and its consequences for straphangers, in with bills to make parking more convenient. Maybe we were being a little unfair with that post, because the person who ultimately sets the agenda for the City Council isn’t Vacca, but Speaker Christine Quinn.
A year ago Quinn made it clear that her top transportation priority wouldn’t be improving conditions for straphangers or making streets safer for walking and biking. Nope. In a city where 54 percent of households don’t own cars, Quinn focused on reducing the perceived inconvenience of storing cars on public streets.
Now the speaker is getting her moment in the spotlight from this agenda, with the passage of three bills yesterday. One would ban the Sanitation Department from placing stickers on cars that violate alternate-side parking rules. The Sanitation Department opposes the legislation, but the bill has enough votes on the council to override a mayoral veto. Another would let motorists escape a ticket if they show the parking enforcement officer a muni-meter receipt timestamped within five minutes of the violation, and the third would give illegal parkers more time before late fees kick in on their violations.
The 54 percent who don’t own cars get nothing out of this package, except maybe dirtier streets.
The real irony is that car owners don’t get much out of these bills either. The fact is that parking will remain a headache as long as New York gives away most of its scarce curbside space for free, or at bargain rates.
The City Council could learn a few things from San Francisco, where car owners are incurring fewer parking tickets thanks to a program that aligns parking prices with demand. Rather than bend over backward to address a few pet peeves, Quinn and Vacca would do more to lessen parking dysfunction by encouraging the city to move quickly with its own program to put the right price on curbside space. Instead, any time the city tries to adjust meter rates, the council is the loudest opponent.
After the jump, read the email blast that Quinn’s office sent out yesterday claiming victory against “unfair” and “unnecessarily punitive” parking enforcement.
Council Votes to Ease Parking Regulations
The Fair Parking Legislative package will promote more judicious parking enforcement and ticketing practices, providing relief for motorists citywide.
At today’s Stated Council Meeting, my colleagues and I voted on the Fair Parking Legislative package – three bills intended to make parking enforcement fairer and to eliminate excessive ticketing in New York City.
The first bill, which I first presented during my 2011 State of the City address, will help drivers who receive a parking ticket while in the process of paying for a muni-meter spot. Under the legislation, Traffic Enforcement Agents, with electronic ticketing devices, will now be able – and required – to cancel the ticket immediately, averting the need for New Yorkers to dispute it later, saving them time and effort.
My colleagues at the Council and I also voted on legislation to prohibit late fees on parking tickets prior to a determination of liability. Under current law, late fees may start accruing 30 days after a ticket is issued, rather than 30 days after a determination is made in these cases. This bill will suspend the accrual of late fees until at least 30 days after a finding of guilt, or thirty days after an appeal is decided.
Finally, we voted to end a practice that utilizes adhesive stickers to mark vehicles allegedly violating alternate side parking rules. These stickers are unnecessarily punitive and this bill will end this practice.
IMMEDIATE CANCELLATION OF UNFAIR PARKING VIOLATIONS
To address complaints heard from New Yorkers who park their car and receive a ticket while in the process of paying at a muni-meter, my colleagues and I passed a bill earlier today to require Traffic Enforcement Agents to cancel a ticket on the spot when presented with a muni-meter receipt that shows a time no later than five minutes after the time the ticket was issued.
Currently, when an agent issues a ticket but is then presented with a valid muni-meter receipt, there is no option to cancel the ticket instantly. Under this law, anyone who receives a ticket while doing what they are supposed to do – purchasing parking time from a muni-meter – will not have to fight it later on.
This legislation only applies to tickets written electronically, which account for approximately 85 percent of parking tickets written in the city, so there can be no dispute over the time stamped on the ticket and the muni-meter receipt. Finally, the Administration will be required to report the number of cancelled tickets annually to the Council, which will provide valuable information about any trends.
This local law will take effect 180 days following enactment, provided that during this period, the New York City Department of Finance will be required to appropriately train agents to enforce the law.
Today, we’re tackling a recurrent problem for many New Yorkers– unfair tickets. Nearly every New York City driver has a story about getting tickets they clearly didn’t deserve. Ticketing is supposed to help us enforce the law – not unfairly punish people with no chance for swift recourse. With this bill, we’re saying to New Yorkers, “We’ve listened, and we want to make your lives a little easier.”
PROHIBITING LATE FEES PRIOR TO A DETERMINATION OF LIABILITY
Motorists have the right to dispute parking tickets and should not be penalized before a final determination is made in their case. However, as it stands now under the law, the late fee “clock” starts 30 days after a ticket is issued instead of 30 days after a determination is made in the case. This means that if a driver fights a ticket and is ultimately found guilty, fees may have accrued even before that finding is made.
My colleagues and I passed a bill that will freeze such late fees until at least 30 days after a finding of guilt. In addition, if someone appeals their decision, late fees or penalties may not accumulate until 30 days following a notice of determination of the appeal.
ALTERNATE SIDE PARKING STICKER BILL
Finally, we voted to prohibit the City from placing adhesive stickers to mark vehicles purportedly violating alternate side parking rules. These stickers are attached even before motorists are given the chance to prove their innocence. Besides the fact that many people successfully challenge alternate side tickets, cars should not be subject to such a nuisance before a finding of guilt. Actions like these are unnecessarily punitive.