Neighborhoods and Parking Reform: Show Them The Money


Now that the Legislature has said "no" to pricing streets, attention has turned to pricing curbside parking. It’s no secret that meter rates are ridiculously low. This is because the DOT has been told by generations of mayors to keep the price down in an effort to appease motorists. The cost of this ill-considered gesture is a plague of cruising traffic, rampant double parking, congested streets, and motorists with nowhere to park paying $600 million a year in parking tickets.

The challenge for Mayor Bloomberg’s DOT is how to change public attitudes conditioned by decades of artificially low prices. DOT has painful memories of City Council’s 2005 decision to overrule a mayoral veto and suspend Sunday parking meters. The legislation was passed without an environmental review, and has gridlocked shopping streets, while costing taxpayers $20 million a year in lost revenue.

There is a politically popular way to overcome resistance to higher meter rates. City Hall should guarantee some of the meter revenue to neighborhood pedestrian cycling and transit improvements. Washington, DC and LA are doing it and it works. Transportation Alternatives, a number of Business Improvement Districts and internationally recognized authorities like UCLA’s Donald Shoup have urged New York City to give it a try. Unfortunately, the same City Hall that urged lawmakers to have an open mind on congestion pricing has been adamant that the city’s practice of sending all revenue to the general fund is unchangeable. Unlike congestion pricing, the size and scope of a "revenue return" pilot program would be easily adjustable and could work as an opt-in program combined with Residential Parking Permits.

Admittedly, revenue return is just one part of a much larger equation. But the harsh reality for a reform-minded DOT is that while there are pockets of support, there is no popular hue and cry for higher meter rates. The way out of this political gridlock is to give neighborhoods a direct stake in local parking reform by reinvesting some parking revenue in new sidewalks, traffic calming and bus improvements the average person can experience and appreciate.

Photo: English Man in New York City/Flickr


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 […]

San Francisco Launches Ambitious Parking Reform Program

San Francisco is lunging out of the parking dark ages. Backed by the mayor and city council, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is launching "SFpark," a comprehensive, curbside parking reform project encompassing ten city neighborhoods. Starting in September, the $23 million SFpark program will use an array of new policies and technologies to raise […]

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 […]