Quinn’s Parking Agenda Gives Nothing to the 54 Percent Who Don’t Own Cars

On Monday we published the revised schedule for this week’s City Council hearing in James Vacca’s transportation committee. Out with oversight of the MTA budget and its consequences for straphangers, in with bills to make parking more convenient. Maybe we were being a little unfair with that post, because the person who ultimately sets the agenda for the City Council isn’t Vacca, but Speaker Christine Quinn.

Under Speaker Chistine Quinn, shown here with council members James Vacca and Diana Reyna, the current City Council has added red tape for bike projects and reduced incentives to obey parking rules. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/20101130/manhattan/anger-over-rampant-bike-lanes-pedestrian-plazas-leads-new-legislation##DNAinfo##

A year ago Quinn made it clear that her top transportation priority wouldn’t be improving conditions for straphangers or making streets safer for walking and biking. Nope. In a city where 54 percent of households don’t own cars, Quinn focused on reducing the perceived inconvenience of storing cars on public streets.

Now the speaker is getting her moment in the spotlight from this agenda, with the passage of three bills yesterday. One would ban the Sanitation Department from placing stickers on cars that violate alternate-side parking rules. The Sanitation Department opposes the legislation, but the bill has enough votes on the council to override a mayoral veto. Another would let motorists escape a ticket if they show the parking enforcement officer a muni-meter receipt timestamped within five minutes of the violation, and the third would give illegal parkers more time before late fees kick in on their violations.

The 54 percent who don’t own cars get nothing out of this package, except maybe dirtier streets.

The real irony is that car owners don’t get much out of these bills either. The fact is that parking will remain a headache as long as New York gives away most of its scarce curbside space for free, or at bargain rates.

The City Council could learn a few things from San Francisco, where car owners are incurring fewer parking tickets thanks to a program that aligns parking prices with demand. Rather than bend over backward to address a few pet peeves, Quinn and Vacca would do more to lessen parking dysfunction by encouraging the city to move quickly with its own program to put the right price on curbside space. Instead, any time the city tries to adjust meter rates, the council is the loudest opponent.

After the jump, read the email blast that Quinn’s office sent out yesterday claiming victory against “unfair” and “unnecessarily punitive” parking enforcement.

Council Votes to Ease Parking Regulations
The Fair Parking Legislative package will promote more judicious parking enforcement and ticketing practices, providing relief for motorists citywide.  

At today’s Stated Council Meeting, my colleagues and I voted on the Fair Parking Legislative package – three bills intended to make parking enforcement fairer and to eliminate excessive ticketing in New York City.

The first bill, which I first presented during my 2011 State of the City address, will help drivers who receive a parking ticket while in the process of paying for a muni-meter spot. Under the legislation, Traffic Enforcement Agents, with electronic ticketing devices, will now be able – and required – to cancel the ticket immediately, averting the need for New Yorkers to dispute it later, saving them time and effort.

My colleagues at the Council and I also voted on legislation to prohibit late fees on parking tickets prior to a determination of liability. Under current law, late fees may start accruing 30 days after a ticket is issued, rather than 30 days after a determination is made in these cases. This bill will suspend the accrual of late fees until at least 30 days after a finding of guilt, or thirty days after an appeal is decided.

Finally, we voted to end a practice that utilizes adhesive stickers to mark vehicles allegedly violating alternate side parking rules. These stickers are unnecessarily punitive and this bill will end this practice.

To address complaints heard from New Yorkers who park their car and receive a ticket while in the process of paying at a muni-meter, my colleagues and I passed a bill earlier today to require Traffic Enforcement Agents to cancel a ticket on the spot when presented with a muni-meter receipt that shows a time no later than five minutes after the time the ticket was issued.

Currently, when an agent issues a ticket but is then presented with a valid muni-meter receipt, there is no option to cancel the ticket instantly. Under this law, anyone who receives a ticket while doing what they are supposed to do – purchasing parking time from a muni-meter – will not have to fight it later on.

This legislation only applies to tickets written electronically, which account for approximately 85 percent of parking tickets written in the city, so there can be no dispute over the time stamped on the ticket and the muni-meter receipt. Finally, the Administration will be required to report the number of cancelled tickets annually to the Council, which will provide valuable information about any trends.

This local law will take effect 180 days following enactment, provided that during this period, the New York City Department of Finance will be required to appropriately train agents to enforce the law.

Today, we’re tackling a recurrent problem for many New Yorkers– unfair tickets. Nearly every New York City driver has a story about getting tickets they clearly didn’t deserve. Ticketing is supposed to help us enforce the law – not unfairly punish people with no chance for swift recourse. With this bill, we’re saying to New Yorkers, “We’ve listened, and we want to make your lives a little easier.”

Motorists have the right to dispute parking tickets and should not be penalized before a final determination is made in their case. However, as it stands now under the law, the late fee “clock” starts 30 days after a ticket is issued instead of 30 days after a determination is made in the case. This means that if a driver fights a ticket and is ultimately found guilty, fees may have accrued even before that finding is made.

My colleagues and I passed a bill that will freeze such late fees until at least 30 days after a finding of guilt. In addition, if someone appeals their decision, late fees or penalties may not accumulate until 30 days following a notice of determination of the appeal.

Finally, we voted to prohibit the City from placing adhesive stickers to mark vehicles purportedly violating alternate side parking rules. These stickers are attached even before motorists are given the chance to prove their innocence. Besides the fact that many people successfully challenge alternate side tickets, cars should not be subject to such a nuisance before a finding of guilt. Actions like these are unnecessarily punitive.

  • Glenn

    The real beneficaries are actually the enemies of the law abiding public. They leave their car on the street when it’s time for cleaning and they don’t pay their fair share of the limited number of metered spots that are already under market prices.

    When the Council cries foul over the Mayor’s budget closing senior centers, firehouses, etc they should remember that parking fees help pay into the general fund and if less revenue is collected that’s got to come out of services elsewhere.

  • Bolwerk

    The real irony is that car owners don’t get much out of these bills either.

    Yeah, this the perplexing part.  The only way drivers are harmed by any of these supposedly “anti-car” proposals to make them pay more of their own costs is when their time and money BOTH mean nothing to them.  That is, they have to not mind that they’re wasting gas sitting in traffic or looking for parking, and their time has to be valued low enough that it doesn’t really matter whether or not they’re wasting it.  What empty shells of human beings some of them most be.  Vaccauous, perhaps?

  • J

    I think in the grand scheme of things, these are kind of throw-away bills. Yes, they are obnoxious and signal a pandering to bad driver behavior. However, as this article points out, I seriously doubt anyone is going to stop riding the subway, biking, or
    walking because they no longer have to worry about getting a sticker put
    on their car. An efficient use of money and time will still dominate
    decision-making process, and these bills do little to change the amount of time and money it takes to keep and use a car in the city. I also doubt that they will cause a massive increase in dirty streets and double parking. Maybe some scuffles and anger over 5 minute grace periods, but nothing major.

    What these bills might do, however, is soften driver anger and feelings of being victimized. If so, then I guess I’m pretty apathetic about them, maybe even a bit supportive. Perhaps this will lead to less rhetoric about a so-called “war on cars”, which may lead to less opposition to bike and ped projects. I guess I understand the slippery-slope argument and I don’t know enough about how much this will cost the city, but I’ll generally think fighting this is a losing battle and that the negative effects are minor enough to not be worth the effort.

  • J

    @3a9cb377ae68ba7b489d30e5eb859747:disqus I’d be careful about overgeneralizing and bad-mouthing car-owners. Some people don’t have great choices (job in suburban New Jersey vs. unemployment) and decisions are often quite complex with more factors than simple economics. If I were put in that position, I’d certainly vote for parking permits and market-based metered parking, but many (if not most) people don’t think rationally about their time and money. Look at the lines on the free ice cream day at Ben & Jerry’s. People wait over an hour for a single scoop of ice cream. Surely an hour of most people’s time is worth more than a single scoop of ice cream, but they don’t think about it that way. Also, if you’ve been doing something for a while it becomes routine, and you don’t think about it anymore.

    I’m not necessarily arguing in favor of these bills, but I do think that understanding the mentality of car owners (instead of reflexively bashing them) would go a long way to bringing them into the liveable streets fold.

  • Mork

    The stickers are terrible, they essentially amount to vandalism as a punishment for parking violations.

    I say just tow them instead.

    Also if people really are getting tickets while they are standing at the mini meters, well, that’s pretty wack too.

    Of course it’s all just symptoms of underpriced on-street parking.

  • Et

    J, drivers will always find a reason to feel persecuted and victimized.  There never was a war on cars to begin with, yet that didn’t stop the media and Vacca from creating one nor did it stop Quinn from pandering to outer borough voters with her support for this legislation.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The shaming stickers are an outgrowth of the steps Ed Koch found necessary to prevent more selfish New Yorkers from abusing common space back in the 1970s and 1980s.  “Don’t Even Think Of Parking Here” signs were another aspect of that mentality.

    Perhaps the Council could do something about the unfair treatment of dog owners by repealing the pooper scooper law.  And how about ending the crackdown on graffitti?  After all, with the pension and debt policies of the Lindsay Administration having been repeated, we are going back to the 1970s in any event.

  • Ex-driver

    Since nobody wants to pay for parking, why not operate it as a lottery with those new parking sensors the city is spending reams on in the Bronx?  You spin the wheel on a smartphone app and if you hit the jackpot, it assigns you a space within a four-block radius. You have five minutes to claim the spot otherwise it opens up again.

  • J

    @6048fc7e9777ab3ae43bde4e7a6212de:disqus Fair point. Drivers may always feel persecuted, but with this law it will be easier to say, “hey, your lives were just made easier. Stop whining about the new bike lane.” Also, I’d much rather Quinn pander to Outer Borough voters regarding sanitation stickers than pander to them about by opposing bike lanes, ped plazas, or SBS. My point remains that this won’t change much and there are more important battles to be fought.

  • Andrew

    @66d3eb2ca1cb7b3dc34c87c1eb9efff6:disqus  So insist that Sanitation use an adhesive that comes off easily.

    It’s the parking ticket bill that I find ludicrous.  If you don’t bother to pay the meter and you catch an agent writing a ticket, you can pay then and you’re off the hook.  If you’re parking for less than five minutes, there’s never reason to pay the meter in advance.

    Perhaps even more ludicrous is that this is the sort of thing that Quinn thinks should be her and Vacca’s primary focus.  Although I guess that @Uptowner13:disqus is correct – there are far worse things she could be focusing on.

  • JWS

    I can’t remember ever seeing so many politicians competing to see who could be the most soft on crime!

  • Anonymous

    I’m all for increasing the price of street parking toward fair market prices, but I don’t really mind the bill that introduces 5-minute tolerance. I know I would be seriously peeved if I got a ticket while I’m paying at the muni-meter (which sometimes is far enough from your car that you might not even notice that you are getting a ticket).

    Sure, there will be some abuse, and people who park less than 5 minutes could park for free. I don’t really mind the existence of free 5-minute parking. Is that such a big deal? How many people park less than 5 minutes, anyway? (The sad park is that most people who need to park less than 5 minutes in NY think nothing of double-parking.)

    I should point out that even relatively expensive, self-service parking lots, like those at airports, often don’t charge you if you leave the parking lot within, say, 15 minutes. This allows you a free exit if you didn’t find a parking spot, but it also allows you to park for free for a few minutes.

    I guess there will also be cases of people sitting at a restaurant, watching their car, and only when they see the ticket agent will run to the muni-meter and claim that they just got there. But again, is that such a huge deal? I thought we had a principle that it is better for one hundred guilty persons to go free than one innocent person should suffer.

    (I don’t even own a car, but I’ve been known to park at muni-meters on occasion, with borrowed or rented cars.)

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think Streetsblog’s criticisms of Vacca are at all off-base.  He is the Chair of his committee.  If he thinks his higher-ups are setting a misguided, car-focused transportation agenda, it is his duty to call them on it.  If he doesn’t have the nerve to do this, he could at least carry out their directives with a little less zealousness.  I have seen nothing in Vacca’s behavior the past several years to indicate that he does anything but wholeheartedly agree with this antediluvian approach.  

  • The HIGH cost of FREE (& under priced) parking = More honking, more pollution, more preventable injuries & death of innocent people, more congestion, more damage & higher costs for tax payers. 

    Smart parking please!  Raise the rate until their is always at least 1 spot open on every block, & you solve ALL of these problems AND make it easier for drivers to find a spot & get where they are going faster.  No brainer.

  • JEng

    The Department of Finance fabricates fines and charges and intentionally overcharges property tax in excess of total rents collected REPEATEDLY.

    They also fabricate tickets which are not delivered until three weeks later past the hearing date so you cannot dispute the FACT that the recipient of the bill’s car does not have that plate number nor the VIN and has never been to 713 Carroll Street in Brooklyn nor to 1034 Third Avenue in Manhattan. And never received the previous tickets in the mail..

    This is how they treat people behind their dishonest press promotions about how wonderful they are.


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