Its Showtime for the DOT Parking Team


As usual, traffic was heavy on 125th Street outside the Alhambra Ballroom in central Harlem, Wednesday evening, where the Department of Transportation held its fourth of seven planned workshops to discuss parking strategies in neighborhoods bordering the City’s proposed congestion pricing zone.

According to Bruce Schaller, Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Sustainability at the DOT, the workshops have two goals. First, DOT is listening to concerns residents have about the parking impacts of congestion pricing. Residents’ are worried about "park and ride" commuters who currently drive into Manhattan’s Central Business District, but with the advent of an $8 pricing fee might park just outside the pricing zone and take transit to their final destination.

Second, DOT is suggesting possible parking strategies — "Just ideas," says Schaller — for addressing those impacts and gauging community reaction to them. Schaller emphasizes that DOT wants to get residents of potentially affected communities involved as early as possible.

The Harlem workshop, much more sparsely attended than the one in Park Slope, Brooklyn the night before, drew about thirty neighborhood residents and representatives of numerous local organizations. It was heavily staffed by DOT and its outreach consultant, Howard Stein Hudson. Though Harlem has among the lowest car-ownership rates in the nation, only 20 percent of households have a vehicle, all but a handful of the residents in attendance were car owners and frequent drivers. One contrarian, a long-time local, showed up on a beat-up bike sporting a weathered Transportation Alternatives sticker.

Participants and moderators gathered at three tables to discuss concerns and options. Many were adamant that a motoring lifestyle was the neighborhood norm. Said one woman, a low-income housing developer and trained city planner: "Everyone in my building owns a car."

Said another, also a professional planner: "Harlem has poor services and everyone needs a car to access better services." A friend added that 125th street was a regional shopping and driving destination and more parking was badly needed. In a nod to Yogi Berra, she added "Harlem is a giant, crowded, shopping mall, but there is no parking, so no one comes here anymore."

Participants agreed that Harlem’s streets are already a daily disaster of double parking, endless cruising, placard abuse, and unfair enforcement — especially the wrath-provoking ticketing of double parked church goers and during street cleanings. They also cited concerns about asthma and air pollution and the need to reduce car-use (that is, car-use by outsiders and infidels). At one table, participants also acknowledged that parking on business streets should be treated differently than on residential streets.

DOT presented participants with two main options for addressing parking shortages: charging more for on-street parking in metered areas, and Residential Parking Permits in unmetered areas. Though participants complained about cruising for short-term parking on business streets, they recoiled at having to pay more at the meter even if it saved them time and improved their chance of finding a spot.

Residential parking permits drew widespread support, though exactly how they would work was controversial. "I like them, but DOT seems to be really pushing these RPPs." Said a long-time resident who said she saw RPP’s work in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Most of the car owners liked the idea that RPP’s were a chance to improve their chance of getting free parking, but didn’t like the idea of paying much for them. Other, more tech-oriented ideas like smart parking meters, that can detect feed-the-meter types and alert police, and in-car GPS chips that can alert drivers to open spaces, were met with skepticism.

DOT’s Schaller says that comments will be compiled after the initial round of meetings and incorporated into a larger study of parking trends. The study will help inform a second round of workshops in January at which alternatives will be introduced.

Additional reporting by Erik Shilling. Photo: in2jazz on Flickr


Push for Congestion Pricing Spurs Parking Reform

  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 […]

Congestion Pricing Should be Attached to Parking Reform

The daily scene on SoHo’s Crosby Street, jammed with illegally parked government employees. The Observer reported on Wednesday that Walter McCaffrey’s Committee to Keep New York City Congestion Tax Free recently solicited UCLA parking policy guru Donald Shoup to do a study of curbside parking policy in New York. Carolyn Konheim, a Brooklyn-based transportation consultant […]

Details of the Mayor’s Residential Parking Permit Proposal

Potential residential parking permit stickers, curbside regulations, and David Yassky. Here are some more details about the residential parking permit program proposed today by Mayor Bloomberg and DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan: A residential parking permit (RPP) plan will be included in the congestion pricing legislation that will be introduced in the City Council and State […]

DOT: Relax Brooklyn, Parking Permits Not Just for Downtown

Borough Prez Candidate De Blasio Qualifies His Opposition to Congestion Pricing A crowd of nearly 200 filed into the auditorium at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn last night, ready to pop a few questions to DOT about residential parking programs. But first, three of Brooklyn’s City Council members gave some of their first public […]

Brooklyn Workshop Focuses on Residential Parking Program

Hours after the Congestion Mitigation Commission revealed that residential parking programs would be attached to its congestion pricing plan, about 70 Brooklynites gathered at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope last night to talk about RPP. The event was the third DOT/EDC neighborhood parking workshop held this week, following others in Long Island City and […]

Three Concrete Proposals for New York City Traffic Relief

This Morning’s Forum: Road Pricing Worked in London. Can It Work in New York? Three specific proposals to reduce New York City’s ever-increasing traffic congestion emerged from a highly anticipated Manhattan Institute forum this morning. One seeks variable prices on cars driving in to central Manhattan, with express toll lanes and higher parking fees to keep things […]