Push for Congestion Pricing Spurs Parking Reform

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It may not have been Mayor Bloomberg’s intention when he proposed congestion pricing, but he has put reforming curbside parking policies front and center. Desperate for "alternatives" to pricing, opponents have borrowed proposals to hike curbside parking rates, and price free curb spaces. These parking reforms which would significantly reduce double-parking and traffic snarling cruising, are championed by Transportation Alternatives, and its former consultant Bruce Schaller, who is now a Deputy Commissioner at the city DOT.

Regardless of whether congestion pricing meets legislative approval in March, it has laid the groundwork for significant changes in city parking policy. The first hint came this week in a DOT press release announcing community parking workshops in neighborhoods on the edge of the congestion pricing zone. Says DOT:

The study areas, which display a range of parking-related conditions, were selected based on their representative characteristics and their ability to inform parking strategies that can be applied citywide…DOT (is working) to develop a toolbox of potential parking solutions that can be applied to neighborhoods citywide.

Traffic is a hot issue because of the mayor. But on-street parking reform has been percolating for a number of years thanks to Transportation Alternatives. The advocates at T.A. commissioned key studies by Schaller which revealed that 28 percent of Soho traffic and 45 percent of Park Slope traffic is made up entirely of motorists cruising for parking space.

T.A. also brought UCLA parking guru Don Shoup to New York City to meet with business leaders, police and DOT officials. Shoup’s message that curbside parking prices should be based on occupancy targets — typically 85 percent of curb spots filled — was very well received. Despite being posed by some as an "alternative" to congestion pricing, ideally on-street parking reforms would work in concert with pricing, as they do in London, to reduce traffic and create more space for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. However, with or without road pricing, much needed changes in curbside parking are coming to New York City.

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In his "State of the City" speech on Monday, Mayor de Blasio said he'd soon release a plan to address growing congestion in the city. Photo: NYC Mayor's Office

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