Times Calls for End to Free Parking Monopoly

One of the most repeated criticisms of congestion pricing is that the city isn’t taking relatively simple measures within its control to ease traffic-related problems. The Times today offers its take on three of them.

79162076_8fc8fcec71.jpgTaxi stands. Anyone who has tried to get a taxi in New York in the rain, particularly at rush hour, knows that the system is broken. Hailers maneuver along the street, and to alternate corners, to get an edge over other taxi-seekers who have been waiting longer. Taxis waste gasoline, and needlessly spew out fumes, as they cruise for fares. Taxi stands, which work just fine in Paris, could be strategically placed around New York. People and cabs would line up. It would be civilized.

Residential parking permits, for a fee. Relatively few New Yorkers take on the expense and hassles of owning a car in the city — which is good, since it encourages the use of public transit. But there are still plenty of drivers, including many from out of town, who take advantage of the city’s generosity and park on the streets free. The city could get more cars off the street and raise badly needed money for mass-transit improvements if it set aside spots for residents for an annual fee. The mayor has not ruled out residential permits as part of a congestion pricing plan. But as cities from Berkeley, Calif., to Chicago and Baltimore have demonstrated, the idea works on its own.

Take away parking permits from city employees. Those vehicles that cavalierly park in front of hydrants or bus stops all too often do so with the impunity that comes with a privileged card placed on the dashboard. Virtually every city agency issues these permits, and there is no reliable count of how many are floating around. But they number in the thousands, including a lot of counterfeits. It’s time to end the free parking. This is New York, not Monopoly.

Photo: Usonian/Flickr

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey, if the fee is reasonable (say $10 to $25 per month) and it convinces people who don’t really need a car (or a second one) to get rid of it, making it easier for me to park, I’m in favor. In fact I might become one of those people in a few years.

    The additional good side is alluded to, and concerns insurance. We have a huge auto insurance fraud problem in New York City, the cost of which is spread among those who register their cars here, as legally required. Most of the drivers “from out of town” are not drivers from out of town. They are people shirking this burden, making it even higher for those who do the right thing.

    No one is willing to crack down on this, because as in other cases it is the people scamming the system who matter politically in New York, not those bearing community burdens. Limiting the permit to those registered and insured here is a way to forces these folks to pay up or get rid of the car.

    Possible downside — an even greater incentive to install curb cuts for off-street parking, which are often installed illegally and reduce the supply of on-street parking. The solution is for the curb-cut fee to be equal to the parking fee, an encouragement (where possible) for group parking solutions — one curbside space lost, many on-street spaces provided.

    Of course, enforcement of any of this may be a fantasy.

  • Ian Turner

    Of course, as far as the monopoly references go, it should be noted that not even Atlantic City has free parking anymore:

  • Boogiedown

    Actually, rather than instuting a system of residential parking permits, it would be far wiser to install Muni-meters on every block and charge all comers the same modest fee, say $3 to $7 per 24 hours. Right now, cars are being warehoused on alternated-side streets by people who keep them, not out of any dire need but rather simply because they can keep them on the street for free. Once these people started paying many would choose to forgo their car and rely on rental car and car share services. Others might choose to pay a little more and have a regular space in a garage. This would free up thousands of spaces. It boggles the mind that in a city like New York anyone lucky enough to find a space can park virtually forever for free!

  • The very first step the city needs to take is eliminating placards/free parking for all city employees.

    Including politicians. Tons of placard users & abusers (fraud) will scream about this, but the practice is indefensible and needs to end immediately.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (The very first step the city needs to take is eliminating placards/free parking for all city employees.)

    I’m not sure about this, but I believe that some of the unions have parking guarantees in their contracts. Since under labor law provisions like those are guaranteed in perpetuity unless there is a contract agreement to change them, I don’t think they can be taken away.

    Moreover the dispersed workplaces and residents of most public employees make mass transit trips difficult and time consuming, though carpooling is an option that could save them big bucks.

  • gecko

    As Gil Penalosa recounts when his brother, (Enrique) the Mayor of Bogota began removing cars from parking on the sidewalks, they started a campaign to impeach him. So, he increased the restrictions on cars.

    Bloomberg should probably take a cue from this as everything mentioned above will help a lot.

  • Ian Turner


    Even assuming that there is some reason public employees are special in this way, the right way to handle it is to offer the extra pay required to purchase parking at a market rate. Some of them will do so; others will keep the cash and take the bus.

    Equivalently, there could be a permit buyback provision, so employees can cash in permits for the market value of the parking space it represents.

    There is no reason whatsoever to maintain the existing permit and placard regime, other than inertia.

  • Hilary

    I have been told that the STATE employee parking priviliges are the most untouchable. But in the negotiations over CP, maybe they could be?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (There is no reason whatsoever to maintain the existing permit and placard regime, other than inertia.)

    Have you ever worked in government? That’s the reason for most of what exists there! And beneficiaries of existing policies, even if they have negative consequences for others, are an immovable object opposed by an apathetic force.

  • ddartley

    I disagree w/ Gary on what should come “first.” I sadly think that clamoring for placard reform is quixotic. I don’t know about the other City agencies, but I don’t think NYPD will ever, ever stop issuing those placards (well, for twenty years or so), and as long as they are, cops will never, ever meaningfully crack down on their abuse.

    I think congestion pricing should come “first,” because a) even with all its opposition, it’s more likely to happen than any meaningful placard reform (that’s rules AND enforcement), and b) it is one of the only things that might actually reduce the number of city employee car commuters (and their attendant ubiquitous, flagrant parking abuse).

    Of all the rules that get inadequately enforced, placard abuse will always be one of the least enforced; you can bet the house.

    I acknowledge that CP would only affect placard abusers in the Pricing Zone. That means it wouldn’t help in this in all of Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, S.I., and upper Manhattan. That brings me to my other suggestion of something to try BEFORE taking on the windmill of placard reform: make it physically impossible to park a car in the most abused places. Here I’ll join momos’s old chorus: Bollards!

    I think that demanding those things is less likely to be a waste of time and energy than asking the City and NYPD to do anything meaningful about placard abuse, and I think they should be pursued first.

    P.S. Nevertheless, about Larry Littlefield’s note about union contracts: whatever a union contract may say does not trump the law. A city employee’s union contract doesn’t have any bearing on the effect of a sign that says “no parking.”

  • ddartley

    To clarify: I certainly don’t think CP will ELIMINATE placard-abusing car commutes, but reduce them, maybe even just a little. But what else will (and quickly)?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (A city employee’s union contract doesn’t have any bearing on the effect of a sign that says “no parking.”)

    No, but it may require that parking sign to say “no parking except those with permits.”

  • Dave H.

    If NYPD proves too corrupt to enforce parking-placard abuses, give parking enforcement to DOT. This is more or less how it works in London (there, it is TFL) and they routinely illegally parked police cars.

  • Dave H.

    The missing word was ‘ticket’.

  • Spud Spudly

    DOT used to do parking enforcement, not so long ago, and it was taken away from them and given to NYPD. Hard to believe they’d switch back now.

  • Slopion

    I’m all for residential parking permits. What I’d like to see even more is the construction of new parking garages. Living in central Park Slope, ten blocks from the nearest parking garage, I’d be glad to pay a monthly fee to “warehouse” my car on the street, but I’d pay even more to warehouse it in an actual warehouse, if for instance there were new parking garages added among all the new construction on Fourth Avenue.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Sorry, Slopion, but a car that gets parked in a garage is just as polluting, congesting and deadly as a car that’s parked on the street. I’d only support a garage if it was linked to the removal of several parking lots, resulting in an overall reduction in parking spaces in the area.

  • Sam Lowry

    No municpal union has a collectively bargained right to free on-street parking. It’s not written into police contracts, despite frequent repetition of this canard. The police unions sometimes claim that they have this right because there’s a pattern of past practice that enables cops to park willy-nilly around station houses. [past practice can have the force of contractual language] However, it’s not a practice that was formally established by management — the workforce has basically just grabbed space and printed their own “placards”. It’s unclear what would happen if it actually were to come up in a grievance or other proceeding. It probably never will though, because NYPD management has no desire to take on the problem of finding off-street parking for its employees.

    That’s why this whole “placard parking” thing is a bit of a red herring. The vast majority of abusers in fact don’t have “real” placards. They have pseudo-permits that precincts and court houses print up for their own use. The other permits (you know, the real ones, issued by DOT) are much more tightly controlled and generally not given to municipal workers for their personal cars. By and large, these permit holders are not the abusers (or at least not nearly so much so as cops and court officers). The problem is that cops don’t write cops. That wouldn’t change if you took every placard off the street. Cops still would find a way to take care of their own parking needs.

  • Slopion

    Yes, Angus, no one will ever question your purity.

    Permit parking–or municipal garages, or any other system of ensure that people who choose to own cars must pay for their storage–is a fair means of assessing people for the cost of their choices, for which they presently pay nothing, and could fund a lot of mass transit improvements.

    If you can persuade people that the benefit of permit parking is that, for their money, they will be able to find a place to park, you might actually pass it.

    If you persuade people that the benefit of permit parking is that it’s one step closer to ridding the world of their evil cars, with which they are selfishly raping the planet, you will never pass it–the percentage of non-car-owning New Yorkers notwithstanding.

    But no one will ever question your purity on Streetsblog. And I’ll be able to continue to keep parking on the street and not pay a dime. So keep it up! You’re doing a great job!

  • Larry Littlefield

    (No municpal union has a collectively bargained right to free on-street parking. It’s not written into police contracts, despite frequent repetition of this canard.)

    That being the case, I’d be happy to give it to them — outside the CBD, for a limited number of drivers who agree to bring two others in in a dynamic system such as that produced by GoLoco. Cars in reserved on-street parking should not arrive with empty seats.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Fuck you too, Slopion. This is not about my “purity.” If you express your desires, I’m entitled to express mine too, without being insulted. If you wanted to have a discussion about the best way, politically, to achieve permit parking, you should have said so. Then I would have told you why your idea sucks politically instead of why I personally dislike it.

  • Jonathan

    Slopion, if you feel like paying around $250 a month, you too can enjoy offstreet parking starting tomorrow. There’s a free market in garage parking, at least in my neighborhood.

    I would gladly support permit parking, but I fear it is a dead issue politically. I am certain that the drivers of all those cars with Georgia and Pennsylvania license plates are registered to vote in New York.

  • Slopion

    Jonathan: I would be delighted to pay $250 a month for garage parking, if there were any within, say, three or four blocks of where I live. And I’d gladly pay, I don’t know, $100 a month to street-park on my own block. Maybe more. But I’m not going to pay $250 to park in someone else’s neighborhood. That’s not paying for a benefit, it’s just punishing myself. If I wanted to do that, I’d give my car to charity and beat myself with a cat-o-nine-tails; it’s be cheaper.

    I’m more optimistic about permit parking. I think it’s achievable, maybe not overnight but soon, IF you sell it people as money paid for a benefit (easier parking) as it has been in other cities–not if you sell it as a punishment and a means toward a car-free NYC.

  • Davis


    You are mostly right, of course, about trying to sell these kinds of ideas as a benefit rather than a punishment.

    But cigarettes didn’t become unpopular in the US just because public health advocates made strong arguments about the health benefits of not smoking. States and cities have been able to pass increasingly strict measures to curb smoking, to a large degree, because smoking has been demonized, de-normalized and made socially and culturally less acceptable. It took decades for this shift to happen.

    Currently, the same sort of social and cultural shift is happening around the idea of owning and operating a personal automobile in the city. The political battles and policy changes aren’t only going to be won by explaining benefits to rational, self-interested car owners (I imagine that most will still decide that being allowed to park their cars on the street for free is the bigger benefit). So, de-normalizing urban car ownership — making it less socially and culturally acceptable — is also an important part of what is happening.

    Now, that’s going to make you feel a little bit angry and uncomfortable as a car owner but so be it. That’s part of what needs to happen. You need to feel a little bit guilty — like I do — every time I turn the ignition key and fire up my Subaru to take my kids to school in the car rather than biking, busing or walking them there.

    There is another serious flaw in your push to sell the benefits of more stringent parking policy: In neighborhoods like your own, RPP’s aren’t likely to increase parking supply in any meaningful way unless the fees are set exceptionally high. The RPP plan that would “sell” politically wouldn’t likely have a high enough fee to free up any significant amount of curbside space in the wealthier, more parking-deficient sections of Brownstone Brooklyn where RPP’s are most desired. But who knows. If RPP policy is set around curbside occupancy targets rather than a set price, you might be able to do something.

    If only Brooklyn’s Community Boards weren’t so broken, powerless and dysfunctional, you might be able to make an interesting pilot project happen….

  • Stupid

    You are all idiots.

    New Yorkers will always drive. New York will always be congested.

    “Relatively few New Yorkers own cars?” How about MOST New Yorkers DO own cars! 58% to be exact.

    If you don’t like it get out of the city and go back to the Midwest where you hail from.

    I am a true native New Yorker, I live in midtown Manhattan and I love driving my car. I’m so sick of you idiots ramming “mass transit” down our throats. If you losers could redirect this energy towards something more useful your lives would be so much better!

    Have fun sitting on your miserable and putrid subway seats while I’m traveling across town in my luxury coupe (Bentley).

    ciao bello!

  • plist

    stupid is as stupid does….

  • Ian Turner

    I give this troll a -1 out of 10.

  • High IQ

    Stupid is not so stupid.

    You guys really should go back to the Smallvilles that spawned you.

    Americsns will never give up their love affair with the automobile. Accept that and move on.

    Instead of participating in this circle jerk everyday, there are better ways for social change.
    When was the last time any of you wrote a letter protesting the war or for affordable housing?
    You just type away here to be read by the same little bike lobby.

    Roosevelt was right:
    A chicken in every pot!
    A car in every garage!

  • Clayton

    I don’t get it. If you take away all of the placards from those who have one, they’ll just take up our legitimate spaces. Which forces me to drive around to find a space now two times the time I would normally drive around. Keep the placards, abuse away!

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Clayton, they already take my legitimate space – the sidewalk, since I’m walking most of the time. I’d much rather they park in an actual parking spot, or better yet, take the train.

  • Sam Lowry

    The people who park on sidewalks are cops and court officers. If you take away their “placards”, they’ll just find another way to identify themselves to each other and continue parking as they do with impunity. The issue is not the placards (which do not give anyone the right to park on sidewalks or in bus stops, or in front of hydrants). The problem is the behavior of these law enforcement agents, who reserve for themselves the right to park illegally and offer each other “courtesy”. All this focus on the piece of cardboard is misplaced.

  • Streetsblog is read by the bike lobby (who?) and apparently an influx of self-proclaimed Bentley driving geniuses who require free parking. (Something in there doesn’t add up.)

    Future Alex Marshal post: Why is the livable streets movement dominated by those who live in New York by choice rather than chance?

  • High IQ

    Who owns a Bentley? Who owns a car for that matter, Doc?

    We could move, we choose not to. So it is not chance, my presumptive friend, that we remain and scorn newcomers who want to change the habits of everyone else.

    It is not too late. Smallville will always welcome you back.

  • vnm

    Stupid – way to go. But that’s retarded. Go back to the midwest? Where everyone drives? Even if we were from there it wouldn’t make sense. We’re here because NYC is the place to be in America if you DON’T drive.

    High IQ wants us to build affordable housing, but Slopion would build parking garages instead of housing.

    Slopion, the idea of building garages is horrible. Ever been to downtown Silver Spring (or wherever)? It is the lack of driving that makes New York the exciting and unique place that it is. Build more parking garages, and hence more traffic, and you start to take away the soul of the city. Devote the land to affordable housing instead.

  • plist

    Life is change, those who can’t adapt go the way of the dinosaur. You can cry about old lost New York but I prefer New Amsterdam!

  • High, the message that you first tagged onto claimed to have been written by a proud Bentley driver. And this “native” trolling is the boring. New York is always changing–perhaps that’s what should be accepted, rather than capitulating to an automotive love affair that fortunately characterizes suburbville more than 21st century New York.

  • george

    the whole “midwesterners go home” thing is pretty overdone at this point. a hell of a lot of (mostly rural) european immigrants came to ny in the 19th and 20th centuries – probably some of your parents or grandparents. and they sure as hell didn’t drive – just their kids or grandkids, many of whom then moved out to the suburbs, the rest remaining in the city, some to turn into streetsblog trolls thinking they have some superiority because they lucked into being born in the city. would you send all your irish, italian, and eastern european ancestors back because they changed the city they moved into? those irish who organized politically? those jews who founded labor unions? the people who need to get lives are not those discussing substance on this blog with people with similar interests (isn’t that the point of all websites?), it’s the people (aka trolls) dropping in here and inserting ignorant and emotionally inflammatory fluff into the discussion that is meant to hurt people’s feelings. enough of that – go spew your bile on curbed.

  • Slopion

    vnm, No reason you can’t build garages and housing. This is a city. Build high. Where I’m sitting in Brooklyn I see no lack of construction, and whatever is preventing it from being affordable, it ain’t parking.

    Also, Silver Spring? Please. Straw man. You’d have to bulldoze the city Robert Moses-style to make that happen, and at least in this thread no one’s advocating that… although maybe Bentley guy would like to jump in.

    Whether it’s garages or permit parking, a system through which people make choices and pay for them (as opposed to parking on city streets for free, like now) is preferable to the status quo and more politically attainable than an active, deliberate program of reducing parking.

  • Spud Spudly

    George, you’re comparing people who fled violence and political repression with people who left suburbia. My ancestors came here to get away from the Czars and their pogroms and to practice their religion and raise their children in peace. The people you’re talking about didn’t like driving to Walmart.

  • Murray Hill Commuter

    Law Enforcement has its privileges. I feel that they should be able to park where they want and when they want. They cannot have their duties hampered by whiny people who live in Starbucks and go to Town Hall meetings to socialize. Cops need to be able to park when and where they park. They are cops…it is one of the perks.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I’m a native New Yorker, and I’m insulted by the whole “Go back to Ohio” business too. In addition to its long tradition of immigration from Europe and other places, New York has been enriched by migrants from within the United States as well, such as Alexander Hamilton, Edgar Allan Poe, Bill Buckley (who ran for Mayor on a platform that included congestion pricing), Andy Warhol, Malcolm X and David Byrne.

    It may not be as glorious as escaping a pogrom, but escaping the narrow-minded bigotry of American small towns has always been a factor. I would argue that New York has been defined almost as much on the basis of “not like the bad parts of the U.S.” as “not like the bad parts of Europe.”

    I’ve got both sides: my mom’s family escaped from pogroms in Eastern Europe, and my dad escaped from the fire-and-brimstone revival tents of West Texas and harassment at the hands of Milwaukee Nazis. Those who suggest that migrants from other parts of the country don’t have something legitimate to be escaping from betray their own ignorance.

  • Spud Spudly

    You forgot the Naked Cowboy.

  • Ian Turner

    Murray Hill,

    Now that you’ve stated how you feel (about which there can be little more to say), perhaps you’d like to elaborate on *why* you feel the way you do. What makes the police uniquely entitled to break this particular law?

  • Slopion

    New York has always been of, by and for people who came from other places. Doesn’t matter where you were born, doesn’t matter why you came, doesn’t matter how long you’ve been… if you live here now, you have a legitimate say in how things work.

  • plist

    Parking illegally to get a cruller is a pretty pathetic use of power.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Here’s another thing about living in other cities: I think that the time I’ve spent in other places has given me a valuable perspective on New York. Another Streetsblog commenter (wish I could remember who) pointed out a few months ago that the large number of pedestrians and transit users in New York have made life good for the motorists in many ways: the city has street life and is not full of garages and parking lots, people often know their neighbors and relate to them, etc. More importantly, in most of the city if these motorists get out of their cars, they still have places they can walk without being buzzed or screamed at, or having things thrown at them. It’s possible to be a part-time motorist here, and it’s possible because of all the full-time transit users.


    These are things that many people in other cities miss and want to get back. A lot of “born and raised” New Yorkers are still fantasizing about the coming age of glorious motoring. I’ve been there and seen it, and frankly it sucks. I came back here to get away from it. I think that that perspective is valuable, and it doesn’t just come from temporary exiles like me but from the strip-mall refugees.

  • Parking is such a huge problem, something needs to be done!


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