Curbside Space Wars

Private cars blocking service vehicles on W. 86th St. between Columbus and Amsterdam

There are many users of curbside space in New York City. Taxis, School Buses, Access-A-Ride and other private automobiles need curbside space to pick up and drop off people, often disabled, elderly or children. Trucks making deliveries to businesses and residents need curbside space to load and unload goods and packages. These are essential needs. Kids have to get to school. People with health issues need to see their doctors. Residents in taxis need access to their buildings.

But currently all of these needs are subservient to something far more frivolous — free curbside parking for the owners of private automobiles. The owners of private cars have another option — indoor parking garages. While this may not be affordable for everyone, that misses the point. We should be aiming to discourage people from parking on city streets that consume valuable curbside space as well as minimizing the number of cars driving around this city.

As you can see in the typical scene above, a phalanx of private automobiles blocks the right-of-way of a school bus, a UPS truck and a Fed Ex truck as well as several other vehicles trying to pick up and drop off people at the doctor’s office further down the street. A six lane street is reduced to only one lane in each direction causing traffic to bottle up in every direction.

Why not accept that there are many legitimate reasons to access the curb and assign them each a place suited to their importance? Why not charge market rates for curbside parking? Why not stand up to the elite minority of New York City residents who benefit from free curbside parking to the detriment of the rest of us?

  • Steve

    Amen, Glenn. Given the price of garage parking in Manhattan, I can’t blame the free curbside parkers–its like waiting in line for free tickets to Rent. If garage parking is $600/month in the West 80s (and that’s a deal), then a curbside parking space for the 48-hour duration of the alternative side rule is worth at least $40, and more like $70 (because garages don’t let you pro-rate the monthly amount).

    Why the free giveaway to encourage people to sit in their car reading the paper or listening to the iPod for 3 hours out of every 48–or to encourage people to own a car in NYC when in most cases they have little reason to do so or don’t need an incentive to do so?

  • Eric

    Not to mention that in the photo above, it would appear that most of those cars are illegally parked in front of what looks to be a synagogue.

  • Andrew

    Let’s not get carried away. While parking meters should charge a market rate for the privilege of parking on city streets, eliminating curbside parking altogether poses problems as well as providing benefits. Anyone who as ever walked on a sidewalk bordering directly on high speed traffic (without the cover of on street parking) will tell you it’s an unpleasant experience. Whatever their defects, cars parked on street provide a valuable buffer between the pedestrian realm of the sidewalk and the moving traffic on city streets.

  • Steve

    Andrew, I agree with the need for a buffer. I don’t think anyone has proposed the elimination of curbside parking altogether. I think Glenn was trying to say that certain curbside parkers should be promoted over other others.

  • Andrew

    I definitely agree about the buffer. I would like more curbside space used for a variety of different uses that would benefit the surrounding residents, businesses and essential services like passenger pick-up/drop-offs, truck loading zones, bike parking, taxi stands and garbage pick-up. In places where there is no buffer, like bus stops and such, bollards should be installed.


  • And the cars at the curb in front of the Synagogue are not parked illegally. There are no reserved spots in front. Or for the two physician offices next door, or for the hotel or anything else on the block except for hydrants and the bus stops…

  • tps12

    The massive decrease in private car ownership resulting from this kind of policy change should also drive down rental rates and create more of a competitive market for ZipCar-like services. So people who really do need a car on occaision wouldn’t be left out in the cold.

  • Mordecai

    Ummm… an increase in demand classically drives prices up, rather than down. I agree that the supply of rental cars would likely increase as prices went up, but the new stable price would likely be higher, not lower, absent subsidies.


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