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NYC Now Has a Smart Parking Payment App. When Will It Get Smart Parking Prices?

In Midtown Manhattan, motorists now have the convenience of paying for parking via the ParkNYC mobile app. Image: NYC DOT/Parkmobile

DOT has launched a new mobile app that allows New Yorkers to pay for on-street parking from their phones. The mobile platform makes it easier for drivers to pay for street parking, and the added convenience should clear a path for more demand-based pricing for curb space across the five boroughs, which could reduce traffic and double-parking. But so far DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg has not committed to a citywide overhaul of parking prices.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg unveiling ParkNYC in Kips Bay this morning. Photo: David Meyer
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced new parking payment tech today, but did not commit to smarter parking prices that could cut congestion. Photo: David Meyer
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg unveiling ParkNYC in Kips Bay this morning. Photo: David Meyer

The city worked with private vendor Parkmobile to put pay-by-cell into effect. It's currently live river-to-river in Manhattan between 14th Street and 59th Street. The rest of the city is set to receive the technology in the coming months.

To use the service, drivers download the app, register their license plate, and load a minimum of $25 into their account.

The convenience for motorists is clear. Not only does the mobile app save time compared to paying a Muni meter, it also sends a notification when the meter is about to run out, and the driver can then buy more time remotely (until the time limit expires).

ParkNYC has a lot of promise as part of a broader strategy to cut traffic via parking policy. The added convenience of mobile payment presents an opportunity for the city to bring parking prices in line with demand. Most metered parking spots are underpriced, leading to fully occupied curbs. The result is a lot of double-parking and traffic in commercial districts.

DOT began to address the city's dysfunctional parking prices back in 2008 with the Park Smart program, which raises meter prices during periods of peak demand. That program has stalled out for several years however. A recent DOT strategic plan said the city would introduce "a pricing strategy to increase curb availability for deliveries and customer parking," but that initiative was not in evidence at a press conference unveiling ParkNYC this morning.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said smarter parking prices could be in the cards, but the city isn't moving ahead with implementation now.

"It does open the door up to a smarter and more tailored parking policy in terms of rates and dynamic pricing, etcetera," Trottenberg said. "We're not announcing any of that [today], but we are sort of technology-enabled now to move forward with that."

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez said he wants to work with Trottenberg to make dynamic meter pricing happen citywide.

"We can soon begin to take even bigger steps, like dynamic pricing based on supply and demand," Rodriguez said, noting that small business owners "loved" Park Smart because it ensured commercial parking turnover.

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