Motorists Dominate UES Parking Workshop

Streetsblog commenter BicyclesOnly attended last night’s DOT neighborhood parking workshop at Temple Israel on E. 75th St. Here is his account (originally posted here):

I think I was the only one present (some young and idealistic-looking DoT staff excepted) who did not own a car. I heard so many bad arguments for bad policy that I’m sure I have forgotten some, but here are the highlights:

  • Diminishing free on-street parking discriminates against working class people in favor of the very rich.
  • Residential parking permits will encourage residents to drive more because they will be assured of free parking spaces. The current system is best because it gives on-street free parkers a motive to use their car less.
  • It is an "insult" and to ask residents to pay even a $125 administrative fee a year for a residential parking permit "to park on their own block."
  • There should be an elaborate ranking of permits, with residents ranking the highest, employees of certain local businesses beneath that, employees of other local businesses below that, etc.

One of the most irritating things about the process was the consultants’ materials and questionnaires. There were set up from the motorists’ perspective; there was no attempt to ask participants how parking policy affected non-motorists. One CB8 member at my table hard a hard time getting her brain around the idea that there were important uses to which curbside spaces could be put other than free parking, and there was certainly nothing in the consultants’ materials or spiel to suggest that there might be. (I mentioned BRT lanes, increased commercial parking for local deliveries, and sidewalk widening in response and stressed that these served the non-car-owning majority of residents. The response was that the city should first implement BRT, and once it’s in place then all the traffic will go away of its own accord without congestion pricing or changes in parking policy. Dream on!)

The materials and presentation assumed that park-and-ride would be a major problem in the neighborhoods adjacent to the congestion zone. There was almost no discussion of the possibility of expanding or prioritizing commercial and metered parking. The goal of the exercise seems to be to obtain feedback on four very similar variations of the same residential parking permit proposal. And there was no attempt to gather information about the participants themselves. Folks at my table were rattling off the facts regarding their multiple cars and where they were registered. I’m sure the consultants have no idea how many members of the non-car-owning majority have participated in these workshops.

On the plus side, there was unanimous universal disapproval of parking permit abuses. And I think I may have convinced some people that even though I didn’t have a car, as a taxpayer and resident I should have an equal say in how curbside spaces should be managed (something I expect some would have disagreed with at the beginning of the session). Although the majority of attendees were staffers or appointees of electeds (another gross bias in the population whose opinion was being "sampled"), I did appreciate the workshop format, which is far more open than the public hearings where the pols monopolize every minute.

  • momos

    This is very depressing. Come on Streetsbloggers, we’ve got to get out there!! These events are absolutely CRITICAL battlegrounds.

  • Jonathan

    Momos you say critical battlegrounds. Steve says, “The goal of the exercise seems to be to obtain feedback on four very similar variations of the same residential parking permit proposal.”

    I was thinking about going to the one tonight, with the caveat that I don’t live in Harlem, but I do work there, but I am having second thoughts after reading the post. Making a nutritious dinner at home seems more worthwhile.

  • Pigpen

    You can’t always blame the consultant the agency has to approve and often waters down or changes the direction of materials that are produced.

  • Jonathan,

    You probably aren’t personally interested in this, but your co-workers may be interested to know that the key issue distinguishing the 4 proposals that the workshops consider is whether to give parking permits to “local employees” as well as residents.

  • Hilary

    What kind of employers are claiming their employees need to drive? Or is it for themselves?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ve always said public hearings are useless, because of who shows up. But I think I may have an alternative.

    A referendum, in which each Community District (outside the CBD) gets to choose whether to be “auto-oriented” or “pedestrian- and transit-oriented.”

    “Pedestrian- and transit-oriented” districts get higher prices for metered parking, and resident-only overnight parking with a fee of $15 to $25 per month. The additional revenues stay with the community district for allocation by the Community Board, over and above what other Community Boards receive. They would pay for complete streets programs, better paving, improved sidewalks, better parks, extra transit station improvements, and other things.

    These districts would also get cycle tracks, slower light timing except on the widest arterials, one-way patterns designed to discourage through traffic, traffic calming, longer crossing times, bicycle racks, etc. An all out effort would be made to get kids to walk, or bike, to school.

    On commercial streets, there could be extended sidewalks, cycle tracks, and delivery loading zones rather than on-street parking. Some streets could become bus-and-delvery only, as I’ve suggested on 5th Avenue.

    Parking requirements could be reduced, though as I mentioned they barely exist. Meanwhile, restrictions on public parking facilties could be liberalized in commercial areas. Curb cuts would be restricted, as in many of the “contextual zones.” Drive-through windows would be prohibited in such districts, and auto repair and fuel sales limnited except in industrial areas. And the zoning would be enforced (yuk, yuk).

    In auto-oriented CDs, on-street parking would be free, meters would be removed from commercial streets. Anyone could park there, for free, first come, first serve.

    Street crossing times would be the bare minimum. Trucks permitted more widely. All streets timed for 30 miles per hour. There would be no exclusive bus lanes, and no bike lanes other than those needed for those passing through the area.

    Curb cuts would be permitted on any lot without restriction. So would paved over parking pads in front yards. Drive throughs would be allowed on all commercial streets. So would service stations. Parking waivers would be removed, and surveys would repeatedly fine post-1961 businesses (possibly hundreds or thousands) that did not meet the parking requirement.

    That would shift the debate, eh?

  • Jonathan

    Steve, Awesome news! I’m so totally there!

  • Hilary, it is apparent from the materials handed out at the workshop that DoT’s consultants have done research and identified employees of local businesses as a significant segment of the non-neighborhood parkers who perhaps should be accomodated. Workshop participants were asked whether the employee parking permits (if they are adopted) should be distributed by the DoT to specific employees upon proof of employment, or given en masse to employers based ont he size of their workforce, and let the employer distribute them (I urged the former approach for obvious reaons).

    The key features distinguishing the four alternative plans in the workshop materials are:

    1) Participation by local employees, or not,

    2) Whether to apply “resident-only” rules one, eight, or 24 hours a day, or every other day;

    3) whether to allow non-residents to buy one-day parking permits that would confer resident-like parking privileges for $8.

  • Hilary

    Thanks for the enlightenment B/Only.
    For what it’s worth, garage and lot parking in lower Manhattan is a relative bargain for drivers coming in for the day (e.g., in by 8 and out by 8). If you come in at 8 pm and leave before 8 am, however, the charge is double. Since there’s no evening entertainment here, this suggests that the greater demand is by residents, not employees. Could this be true? What’s the situation in other neighborhoods?

  • Jonathan, you should go to the workshop. They serve pizza! And at least on the UES, it was intresting to put out propositions like “owning a car in Manhattan is a luxury” (an unassailable proposition, in my view) and watch the reaction.

  • JK

    I’ll be at the Harlem workshop. I think these forums are far more worthwhile than the ones where you wait for two hours to speak for one minute. Five vocal non-car owners could completely change the tenor of the Harlem meeting.

  • Karbeth

    Will someone from Streesblog be going to the other workshops? Would be great to have such a definitive voice to help people see things for a different angle.


  • kelley

    I was also at the UES meeting last night. I am a regular reader of streetsblog (and incidently don’t own a car and am a regular cyclist). There were three different round table discussions last night, and apparently BicyclesOnly and I were at different tables. At my table, the general consensus among those talking (some people were representing other groups and were listening more than talking) was that none of the plans did enough to DIScourage drivers and that HIGHER prices than those proposed should be implemented.

    If anyone at that table owned a car, they didn’t fess up or make demands for accommodation.

    Having said that, there are still PLENTY of reasons that streetsblog readers should go to the next sessions. It was easy to contribute, and consultants for the DOT really seemed to be listening. Get out there and speak up!

  • bicyclesonly

    So glad to read your comment, Kelley. Given the workshop format I of course have no idea what went on at the other tables. I happened to be sitting with the two most pro-motoring members of th CB8 Transpo Committee and a Maloney staffer with a similar orientation. I’m glad to hear that was not representative of the other tables. Sounds like yours had a very interesting discussion.

  • The Times is reporting that the congestion panel will recommend pricing, with a 60th street border and no intra-zone charges:

  • Jonathan

    BicyclesOnly, there was no pizza at the Harlem event last night. Tea and cookies instead.

    I thought it was a productive discussion that actually could have used a couple more drivers. I was definitely in the car-owning minority at my table.

    Between the last meeting and this one, the consultants had collected some data about parking, the most surprising of which was that nearly 50% of the cars on the street overnight were not registered in the local neighborhood.

    The idea of permits for local employees didn’t fly very far either; nobody thought that was a good idea. The idea of charging cars without resident permits only $8 for daily parking in the Harlem zone was not welcomed either; the consensus was that $8 was too cheap. The issue of whether the permits should cost more than the cost of administering the program ($75-$125) wasn’t really addressed. A majority of the people at the table thought that the permits should be limited in number in order to reduce cruising, but that was not a heavy debate topic. Another point was

    Personally, I came away with some serious reservations about RPP. Considering only about 15% of the neighborhood households have a car, why should we start selling curb space for parking, and only for parking? I can envision a future where making cuts in parking spaces (for wider sidewalks, neckdowns, or loading zones) will be more difficult to enact because RPP-equipped drivers will feel entitled to curb space (“I’ve been paying for parking in my neighborhood for years, and DOT just took away all the spots in front of my building!”). In addition, it will be politically difficult to reduce the number of permits over time, which seems like it would be one of the goals of the program. People will complain to the tabloids, for example, that their 80-year-old grandmother lost her parking permit. A shrinking program, I foresee, will become by default seniority-based RPP, which is ridiculous.

    In general, I thought the prepared materials didn’t provide an adequate answer to my favorite question: “Please describe in detail the problem that this solution is meant to address.” Is the problem increased congestion caused by park-and-ride? Is the problem that residents can’t find convenient free parking? Is the problem that curb space is given away for free to a minority of neighborhood residents? Is the problem that neighborhood locals feel their streets are being used for the benefit of CBD workers, and they’re not getting anything back? Let’s figure out what exactly the problem is, then come up with solutions to address it.


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