Video Proof That NYC Will Do Just Fine Without All This Parking

Private car storage just isn't very necessary in the transportation system of a complex, transit-rich city like New York.

Private car parking consumes way more curb space than it should. Image via Luke Ohlson
Private car parking consumes way more curb space than it should. Image via Luke Ohlson

Every time the city devotes more street space to walking, biking, or transit, you can bet someone will complain about losing parking spaces. No matter how many people will have shorter commutes or safer trips around the neighborhood thanks to repurposing parking, there’s a certain line of thought that views car storage as the most important function of city streets. Even though most NYC residents don’t own cars, the parking-above-all perspective still carries a lot of weight with decision makers afraid of ruffling feathers.

But how important is all this street parking, really? What does the city get in return for giving the vast majority of it away for free? Not much, as this video from Transportation Alternatives organizer Luke Ohlson demonstrates.

In time-lapse footage from the 22nd Street and Broadway Citi Bike station, covering an hour of the weekday p.m. rush on June 14, the bike-share docks turn over much more frequently than the adjacent car parking spaces. By my count, there are nearly 200 combined arrivals and departures using the bike-share station in 60 minutes, while six cars come and five cars go over the same time.

The video, which was displayed prominently at last week’s launch of Streetopia, underscores the inefficiency of how NYC allocates street space. Private car storage just isn’t very necessary in the transportation system of a complex, transit-rich city like New York. The big metal machines mostly stay put, consuming space that could be used for wider sidewalks, safer crossings, bike parking, and other uses.

  • jeremy

    I’m amazed that actually 2 of those cars moved during 1 hour

  • AMH

    Everyone needs to see this. It really illustrates the concept of turnover far better than words.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    What kind of illegal maneuvering is that Mercedes SUV driver doing at 0:19?

  • JudenChino

    6 cars seems like more then I would’ve anticipated.

  • com63

    Reminds me of the experiment that @BrooklynSpoke ran last year when Citibike came to Brooklyn. He showed that most of the cars on his block never move, except for alternate side parking.

  • Andrew

    And 22nd and Broadway is probably a reasonably high-turnover location, given the land uses in the vicinity. Parking primarily used by commuters or by neighborhood residents has much lower turnover.

    That’s not to say that it isn’t serving any purpose at all, but a parking space on a public street occupied by a commuter’s car for an 8-hour shift is a chunk of valuable public land that for 8 contiguous hours is serving a grand total of one person.

    Our street space is too valuable for that.

  • Ken Dodd

    Let’s not forget the number of people who seem to park up and then just sit in their cars for hours. Sometimes I see entire blocks where almost every car has someone sitting in it.

  • Elizabeth F

    Usually they’re sitting in their cars to comply with alternate-side parking regulations. The amazing thing is that people have that kind of free time in them iddle of the day.

  • DOT should have these kinds of videos ready for every street-space-reallocation project it does. Far more effective than showing a Power Point presentation with a bunch of stats or having “both sides” argue over whether or not anyone is going to use these damn bikes.

  • Vooch

    200 versus 11

    18 times the turnover equals 18 times the shopping, 18 times the mobility, 18 times the jobs

    EIGHTEEN TIMES more efficient use of scarce space

  • Alexander Frieden

    Exactly. It would also show what is actually happening. Why wouldn’t business owners and motorists want these videos? If the parking is being used effectively and really supporting their argument than it will be obvious from the video.

    It never is, but if it was it would show their side.

  • J

    Maybe DOT can use this type of data and analysis to actually MANAGE curbside parking. Currently, the main tool DOT has been using to manage curb usage is extra wide parking (double-parking) lanes. Kinda like addressing second-hand smoke in restaurants by requiring higher ceilings.

  • Joe R.

    Also amazing is people spending money to own a car which they only move on alternate side days. I always thought the point of a car is to, like, go places. Seems for these people it’s just a security blanket. Or in some cases a place to store junk which doesn’t fit in their tiny apartment. Either way, NYC shouldn’t be enabling this habit.

  • Joe R.

    It’s not the just sheer misuse of valuable street space here which is the problem. There’s also the fact that in many cases car storage actually detracts from safety. We shouldn’t allow parking right up to crosswalks. We shouldn’t allow blocking curb cuts. And we certainly shouldn’t allow the NYPD to park on sidewalks, or to block bike lanes. I’d like to see the practice of curbside parking totally banned citiwide. Allow loading zones for delivery or for hire vehicles but absolutely no curbside private car storage. If people want to own cars, they’ll have to pay the going rate for off-street car storage.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll bet good money many business owners already know this. They complain about loss of parking because they want a space for themselves right in front of their business. They just rationalize it by saying loss of parking will hurt their business.

  • Michel S

    Good eye!

  • Keith Williams

    Yeah, but it’ll never work in [insert your neighborhood here].

  • This isn’t that other place!

  • jeremy

    We need the same videos done in brooklyn over a full day

  • kjrst9

    they’re waiting for the street sweeper