Parking Reforms Cut Congestion, So When Will DOT Get Serious About Them?

Where is PARK Smart 2.0? Image: DOT [PDF]
Where is PARK Smart 2.0? Image: DOT [PDF]
Earlier this month City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez convened a hearing on city parking policy. The committee addressed abuse of DOT- and NYPD-issued parking placards, but did not discuss one of the most promising initiatives in the city tool kit.

PARK Smart is a program that increases parking rates on certain blocks at times when demand is highest. It has proven successful in cutting congestion, but technological advancements such as pay-by-phone and a dynamic payment structure would make it even more effective.

DOT launched PARK Smart in Greenwich Village and Park Slope in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Community board opposition prompted the agency to spike parking reforms on the Upper East Side. The most recent PARK Smart expansions came in 2013, with pilot programs in Jackson Heights and on Atlantic Avenue.

Streetsblog reached out to DOT concerning the future of PARK Smart. A department spokesperson indicated that additional parking reform proposals may be forthcoming, but gave no specifics:

“The NYC Department of Transportation is moving toward the development of a more comprehensive management plan for the metered parking environment. The Park Smart initiative will seek to develop a toolbox of approaches to improve the operation and utility of the curb, as well as programs and policies that are more reflective of neighborhood demand and character. Over the course of the next year, NYC DOT will be collecting parking metrics in neighborhoods across the city to build parking profiles which may influence changes that NYC DOT may make in the near future to parking rates and regulations.”

With Governor Cuomo showing no interest in bridge toll reform, innovative parking policy is probably the best means the city has to reduce traffic congestion along its busiest commercial corridors.

  • BBnet3000

    Something with 2.0 on its name is launching more “pilots”? That’s not how versioning works.

    Market pricing parking would be the icing on the cake. I suspect it would be better if we baked the cake first. Why is it that there are only loading zones in front of a handful of commercial frontages in the Downtown and Midtown? Does a random office building in Midtown have a greater need for UPS and W.B. Mason deliveries than any commercial frontage in Brooklyn does for food or goods unloading?

    If you want to see a large source of chaos on our streets, congestion for private auto traffic (praise be upon it), poor visibility for pedestrians crossing and uncomfortable cycling look no further than our complete lack of commercial loading zones.

  • You know, its funny, because adults act very much like children in these scenarios. They want more parking, this gets them more parking, but they don’t want to pay, so….what? Magically make more parking. Adults need to learn to face reality sometimes.

  • Sean Kelliher

    I work in midtown. There are a number of commercial and loading zones in my work neighborhood. Who occupies most of this space though? Placard holders.

    In front of my building (it’s a medical facility) is even a zone for ambulances. This might seem like “sacred space”, but it’s not. An Escalade owner with an EMT placard that expired a year ago usually takes half the zone. Various placard owners take the other half. The ambulances double-park.

    The point I’m trying to make is that it’s not enough to just designate space for commercial and loading zones. You need honest enforcement too.

  • Miles Bader

    So what happens if you take a photo of the Escalade, with the location and the placard and license plate details easily visible, and spread it around to news organizations…?

    Even if the authorities’ usual response is to do nothing, can they be pressured/shamed into doing something?

  • Alexander Vucelic

    There Is ZERO reason for any gov’t employee to Have different Parking requirements than any regular New Yorker. All Parking Placqrds should go.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Why haven’t advocates been able to eilst the Parking industry Into joining Forces via a Vie Park SMART ? Paul Steely White – seems Like a Natural ally

    True – all CBD avenues should be pure paid loading zones

    Rates in CBD should be $5 for 15 minutes from 0700 to 1900 and $1 for 15 minutes during the night.

    Existing CBD loading zones in side streets should Have similar pricing.

    Curbside Parking in CBD should be gradually eliminated. Until it Is eliminated, Prices should be $5 for 15 minutes ( match loading zones ) then escalate to $10 for Every 15 minutes thereafter ($35 for first hour, $40 per hour thereafter ) 24/7.

  • Tyson White

    Those who wait twice a week in their cars for alternate side parking would never agree to pay for those spots they scramble for at a first come first served basis. What they don’t realize is that they are already paying for those spots in wasted time and wasted gasoline at a higher cost actually!

  • Or it could be that the number of people who seek free parking is so insanely high that even the people who WOULD agree to pay for street parking are obliged to wait. I’m sure lots of folks also use their waiting time “wisely,” by listening to motivational audiobooks and doing sales calls.

  • AMH

    I wonder if it has something to do with actually enjoying the excitement of getting a “good” parking spot, even if that means you can never use your car for fear of losing that spot. Sort of how gambling addicts get a rush when they “almost” win. I would hate this, but I can see how it might appeal to certain competitive personalities.

  • Curbside parking is like the free sample that gets you hooked on motoring into Manhattan; it’s to the garages’ benefit to advertise themselves as the “safe, dependable” option for motorists.

    If midtown visitors knew from the start that they would have to pay for parking, they might as well park in Long Island City and take the 7 train.

    So yes, even small universal charges can have big effects on behavior. Let’s do it!

  • Alexander Vucelic

    insightful comment thanks

  • Jules1

    Yeah, there is a bit of a “thrill of the hunt”, combined with bargain hunting and a deeply-rooted human tendency towards claiming territory. There’s a lot of interesting psychology involved with parking.

  • I wonder if they’re from the same folks who refer to my generation as “entitled” when we ask for infrastructure which isn’t lethal.

  • Tyson White

    No, actually. I see them playing on Facebook mostly. They illegally idle the engine even on days when it’s 59 degrees out.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve read about this but never really understood it. Do these people ever use their car? Or do they just do the twice weekly ritual of moving it from one side of the street to another? It seems to me all they’re doing is proving to themselves they can own a car and park for free in a place like Manhattan. Once you count all the wasted hours moving the car and working to pay for it, exactly what’s the point? It’s not like driving is any faster than other transportation options in NYC. These people are probably just conditioned that they *have* to have a car. They never seem to bother seriously evaluating the benefits versus the drawbacks. I’d personally be really annoyed devoting that amount of time each week to an inanimate object, particularly one which is nearly useless because of the fear of losing a good spot if you actually do use it.

  • Joe R.

    Once people have to actually pay to store their cars, some large percentage of people just won’t be able to afford a car any more. A significant percentage who can will conclude it’s not worth it to them personally. Perhaps this is exactly what the city is afraid of. If they price parking, all the car oriented businesses will be bitching to City Hall about how this decimated their business. You and I and most people here would likely say good riddance if these businesses close up shop, but unfortunately quite a few of them are politically connected. That said, it shouldn’t be NYC’s job to keep businesses around which require indirect public subsidies like free curbside parking. Let those businesses move or die. When a lot of people ditch their cars because parking is no longer free, they’ll spend the money on something else. That something else will create new businesses.


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