John Liu: Standing Up for Put-Upon Drivers

john_liu_bio_pic.JPGJoining other public officials in the war on parking enforcement, Queens City Council Member John Liu wants to keep drivers sane by changing the rule that permits them to park by a broken meter for one hour. Instead, Liu says, motorists should be allowed to defer to time limits set by street signs.

In an e-mail blast entitled "Parking Rules That Drive People Crazy," Liu staffer Barbara Baruch writes:

The City Council Transportation Committee, chaired by Council Member John Liu, is continuously proposing ways to make parking in New York City "a more civilized experience". One way is to prevent unreasonable parking tickets that chronically plague New Yorkers by clarifying confusing and inconsistent parking regulations such as the "broken meter rule".

The Department of Transportation says the current rule curbs vandalism. At a recent committee hearing, DOT Deputy Commissioner David Woloch testified that "The longer the time is extended, the greater incentive there is for someone to break a meter.” Liu and other council members, including Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, disagree.

"The DOT needs to find better balance," Liu said. "It’s sheer
obstinacy to perpetuate the broken meter rule when the rule does not
deter vandals and yet penalizes law-abiding motorists."

Liu has introduced legislation that would do away with the current rule, along with another bill requiring DOT to replace all coin meters with Muni-Meters by July 2010.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I wonder when John Liu or any other New York City elected official is going to stand up for bus riders, without question, the most put-upon, mistreated and abused user of NYC streets.

  • “…proposing ways to make parking in New York City ‘a more civilized experience’.”

    So that’s why NYC is so uncivilized. It’s those darned parking rules!

  • JK

    This is malarkey. The NYPD and DOT have admitted in public forums that the one hour time limit is not enforced at meters. Curbside parking studies have confirmed that motorists have figured this out and time limits are largely ignored. The most common way to enforce time limits is by chalking tires. In other cities you see parking agents lean out the window with long poles topped by chalk. They don’t do that here. The other option, recording license plates is cumbersome and rarely done. Everyone wants Munimeters, including DOT, which is good since they are cheaper to maintain, easier to enforce, more flexible and for whatever reason, generally more complied with by motorists. But the main result of mandating their universal installation by 2010 will probably be to cost the city more money. It will allow a limited number of vendors to jack their prices up as the city is forced to negotiate on unfavorable terms.

  • J

    John Lui has been a consistent advocate for sensible transportation policy. He was a strong advocate for Congestion Pricing and continues to advocate for bicycling and walking. While I tend to agree with DOT on this one, he is also pushing for the complete conversion to munimeters by 2010. Munimeters set the stage for a widespread market rate pricing structure. Is attacking Lui on such a short term issue worth the potential long term cost of alienating such a strong ally?

  • JK

    Don’t you ever disagree with friends? This is grandstanding. If calling him on it in a blog comment section causes him to change his position on sustainable transportation, then you have to wonder. Liu could support parking reform in a ton of ways. These aren’t them.

  • You have to pick your battles and honestly, I don’t think this is one worth fighting. This isn’t about people parking illegally, it’s about people who are going to park at meters, who are (presumably) willing to put money in them, and who can’t because the meter is broken.

    And he’s not saying they should be able to park indefinitely, he’s saying they should be able to park for as long as it says on the street sign – if you’re parked at a functioning meter in a zone that lets you park for two hours, you can (leaving aside enforcement issues) put your money in the meter and park for two hours. If you’re at a legal space and the meter doesn’t work, why shouldn’t you be able to still stay for two hours?

    Look, I’m all in favor of enforcement and fining/prosecuting scofflaws, but people who are parked in legal spaces that they’re willing to pay for (assuming we’re not dealing with people who are either cruising for broken meters or breaking the meters themselves) are just not worth the effort.

  • I agree that this doesn’t really bother me. I was always confused by broken meter rules when I was in the city and parking for the amount of time on the sign makes sense to me. Also, they should step up enforcement no matter the time limits and, personally, I think they should be able to give tickets for the amount of time spent. If you park at a broken meter you pay for the full time. That way, people won’t have the incentive to break meters. But, I think I like the idea of the switch to munimeters… which I assume makes a switch to variable pricing easier.

  • mike

    I admit that this is minor, but allowing this to pass only increases the sense (and actuality) of entitlement that drivers have. Liu has a pretty good record on transportation issues, but there are a few times when he’s come up with some batty ideas, such as this. Politicians like him need to be schooled when they come up with this stuff, that any trying to make life easier/cheaper for drivers is not achieving “balance”, but instead is penalizing the majority of folks who don’t drive.

  • Thomas J. Hillgardner

    Let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not own a car, I live in Jamaica, New York, and I mostly get around the City by public transportation (which I would like to see improved).

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, Congress passed laws in the 1950’s authorizing billions of dollars for an interstate highway system and the thirst of Americans for automobiles thereafter exploded. It is the federal government’s decision to essentially subsidize the automobile industry by building this massive road system that is the macroeconomic decision driving the purchase of private automobiles. For many, this federal policy has left them with no reasonable alternative than to purchase a motor vehicle. And (gasp!) some of them get operated on the streets of the City of New York.

    The folks who pit car owners against pedestrians in the battle for mass transportation funding are blaming the victims. They apparently are ignorant that we are all in this together and trying to get by with the system we have. People who want mass transportation alternatives to the automobile should not be taking things out on drivers who are merely using the tools that Congress has encouraged. They need to deal with Congress – not motorists. As for the person who claims that a majority of persons do not own cars, actually a majority of persons old enough to drive in this country own a car.

    John Liu has been a hard-working and diligent council person who, for the most part, has worked to stop the war being waged on motorists by the City. But there is so much more to do. His position that allowing parking at broken meters for the time posted on the parking sign is eminently reasonable and sensible. Assuming that it was a motorist who purposefully broke a meter, the DOT’s policy treats every motorist like the criminal who broke the meter. It also is a shifting of the reality that the most common reason why a meter is broken is that it is OVERFILLED WITH COINS. Also, the digital parking meters are notorious for not counting all deposits. I had an old style meter rob me of money on Friday. It is well known by the City that many meters do not properly recognize all coin deposits. There are many rules that are obnoxious to motorists and I am a little tired of all of the supposed mass transit advocates in this City that seem to take joy in every hardship the City chooses to impose on motor vehicle operators that are trying to park the motor vehicles that Congress encouraged them to purchase.

    How about this one: For decades the City has knowingly been breaking state law by issuing and filing parking tickets to motorists who drive away before the traffic agent finishes writing the ticket. With the passage of the new “block the box” law which makes blocking the box a parking violation, expect to see a spike in improperly served parking summonses. Meanwhile, the PVB continues to deny to motorists their rights pursuant to city law and the federal and state constitutions to a public trial on a parking ticket. PVB ALJs conduct their tawdry adjudications in a “Star Chamber” atmosphere of privacy. There is much work still to be done.

    Here’s hoping that the bicyclists and pedestrians of this City can advocate for national changes in transportation priorities and stop taking their frustrations out on those who are economically compelled to make the transportation choice of buying a car and operating it in New York City.

  • gecko

    Lui’s energy would be more wisely spent educating and conversing with constituents about much better cost-effective options from ZipCars to personal lean transport and transit and truly forward-thinking ways (sustainable, practical, comfortable, pleasureable, healthy) for improving mobility and community.

  • For many, this federal policy has left them with no reasonable alternative than to purchase a motor vehicle. And (gasp!) some of them get operated on the streets of the City of New York.

    Nice of you to join us, Mr. Hillgardner.

    Certainly, federal policy has influenced people’s decisions. But it’s not like local policies have been 100% against the federal ones. Many neighborhoods in Queens and elsewhere are car-dependent because the local residents and their political leaders failed to adequately support transit construction.

    In many cases the local politicians actually supported road construction, road widening and other pro-car measures, and in quite a few cases they actively campaigned against transit expansion. Some are currently campaigning against “density,” locking in unsustainable suburban lifestyles. I do not feel that the city should be rewarding these people with underpriced parking and lenient rules.

    The main thing is that John Liu seems to have an inexhaustible supply of sympathy and concern for motorists. He has been known to occasionally stand up for transit users and pedestrians, but somehow never with the same feeling as he shows for drivers – and much less frequently.

    Let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not own a car […] I had an old style meter rob me of money on Friday.

    So was this for a borrowed car, a rental or a Zipcar?

  • Thomas J. Hillgardner

    It was a friend’s car in which I was riding as a passenger.

  • Mbk20001

    How can you tell when a lawyer is stupid?….when a paralegal’s papers keep defeating him in Court.

    My name is Badisse David Mehmet and I am a senior litigation paralegal with 18 years of legal experience and education. 

    I have DEFEATED Thomas J. Hillgardner in Court multiple times via my own Pro Se cases against him or via the legal documents I drafted. 

    I have personal knowledge of Hillgardner’s legal work…… He is a bad lawyer. 

    I would be very careful of any legal advice you get from Hillgardner


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